Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Linguists or Nationalists: Who was Right About the Origin of Indian Civilization?

A CENTURY and a half ago linguists invented a new map of the world. Their research showed that a single family tree stretches its branches almost unbroken across most of Eurasia: from Iceland to Bangladesh, most people speak languages descended from “Proto-Indo-European”. The philologists had a theory to explain why Sanskrit, the ancient forebear of Hindi, has closer cousins in Europe than in south India. They speculated that at some point before the composition of the Vedas, the oldest texts of Hinduism, an Aryan people had migrated into India from the north-west, while their kin pushed westward into Europe.

Long before the Nazis dreamed of an exalted master race, imperialists seized on what some dubbed the “Aryan invasion” theory to paint Britain’s rule of India as the extension of a “natural” order. Indians, too, found a use for it. Caste-bound Hindu conservatives declared that the paler-skinned intruders must be ancestors of higher-caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Such talk stirred a backlash in southern India, where generally darker-skinned speakers of Dravidian languages were urged to see themselves as a separate nation.

Hindu nationalists took a different tack. The West, some said, had made up the theory to set Hindus against each other. Christian missionaries and communists were using it to stoke caste hatred and so to recruit followers, they claimed. Worse, the theory challenged an emerging vision of Mother India as a sacred Hindu homeland. If the first speakers of Sanskrit and the creators of the Vedas had themselves been intruders, it was harder to portray later Muslim and Christian invaders as violators of a purity that good Hindus should seek to restore. So it was that some proposed an alternative “Out of India” theory. This held that the original Aryans were in fact Indians, who carried their Indo-European language and superior civilisation to the West.

[...]

An accumulating pile of research using DNA from both ancient human remains and modern people indicates strongly that, beginning around 2000BC, north-west India was indeed infused with new blood. The newcomers appear to have shared the same roots in what is now southern Russia as did the invaders of a similar-sized peninsula to the west called Europe. Strikingly, too, the genetic markers identifying this group seem to be far more prevalent among modern north Indian Brahmins than among other Indians.

Because of the difficulty in collecting ancient DNA, such research has until recently relied on relatively few samples. But an international team of 92 scholars, including David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard University who has pioneered techniques to analyse DNA more quickly and precisely, is set to publish data recovered from 362 “ancient individuals” from across South and Central Asia. Among their conclusions: there was probably an early migration of agriculturalists into India from what is now Iran, around 4000BC, and this was followed two millennia later—just before the Vedic Age—by a large influx from what is now southern Russia.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Paleogenetics Shed Light on Ancestry of the Inca

A multinational South American team from Peru, Brasil and Bolivia led by the Universidad de San Martin de Porres at Lima, Peru, published the first genetic study on the modern descendants of the imperial Inka lineages in the journal Molecular Genetics and Genomics. This work supported by funds from the Genographic Project (Geno 2.0), shows new insights about the Inkas origins and lineages.

The Inka people arrived to Cusco valley and in a few centuries they built the Tawantinsuyu, the largest empire in the Americas. The Tawantinsuyu was the cultural climax of 6,000 years of Central Andes civilizations overlapping modern countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, the South of Colombia and the North of Argentina and Chile. In contrast with the richness of archeological and cultural evidence, pre Columbian history vanishes in time as it intermingles with myths due to the lack of writing systems before the arrival of the European chroniclers. Very little is known about the Inka origins and some genetic information could help reconstruct part of their history. Unfortunately the mummies and bodily remains of the Inka emperors, worshiped as gods, were burnt and buried in unknown locations due to religious and political persecution by the Christian Conquistadors and Inquisitors, so no direct material remain to study their DNA. "Thus for now, only the genetic analysis of modern families of Inka descent could provide some clues about their ancestors" remarks geneticist Jose Sandoval, first author, working at Universidad de San Martin de Porres at Lima, Peru.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Evidence of the Importance of Animal Management for the Maya in Ceibal, Guatemala

Earliest isotopic evidence in the Maya region for animal management and long-distance trade at the site of Ceibal, Guatemala 
Authors: 
Sharpe et al 
Abstract: 
This study uses a multiisotope (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and strontium) approach to examine early animal management in the Maya region. An analysis of faunal specimens across almost 2,000 years (1000 BC to AD 950) at the site of Ceibal, Guatemala, reveals the earliest evidence for live-traded dogs and possible captive-reared taxa in the Americas. These animals may have been procured for ceremonial functions based on their location in the monumental site core, suggesting that animal management and trade began in the Maya area to promote special events, activities that were critical in the development of state society. Isotopic evidence for animal captivity at Ceibal reveals that animal management played a greater role in Maya communities than previously believed.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Pakistan has Tested a Nuclear Capable Submarine Launched Cruise Missile

Pakistan announced Thursday that it had successfully conducted another test-firing of a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), which has a range of 450 kilometers.

The indigenously developed Babur missile was fired from an underwater platform and “engaged its target with precise accuracy,” a military statement said.

The rocket is capable of delivering “various types of payloads” and provides Pakistan a “credible” second-strike capability.

Military spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor, while referring to the country’s archrival India, said the development of Babur was a response to “provocative nuclear strategies and posture being pursued in the neighborhood.” He also released some footage of the testing.

Pakistan said its nuclear and missile development programs are India-specific and have effectively deterred the bigger neighbor, with its larger military power, from imposing another war on the country.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Robopocalypse Report #102

Drones:

One airline exec is calling for harsher penalties on drone operators for near misses between drones and aircraft.

An alliance has been formed between drone makers.

Amazon got a patent for drones people can wave down.

Aronofsky used drones for filming.

The Borey-10 drone is intended for mapping, monitoring and surveying.

China has issued its first drone delivery permit.

Chinese smugglers were using drones to smuggle $80 million worth of Iphones from Hong Kong to Shenzen.

The Commercial Drone Alliance wants the FAA to regulate hobbyist drone pilots so they can implement a drone air traffic control system.

DJI will allow developers to customize drones.

Delivery by drone may be better for the environment.

Drones are being used to stop poaching.

Drones with computer vision are being used to monitor caribou migrations.

Drones may be part of the security for Coachella 2018.

Drones have an interior life?

A drone pilot was fined for flying over an Ed Sheeran concert.

Your next airline pilot might be drone software.

DroneBase and DroneDeploy have partnered.

The FAI drone racing world cup kicks off in April.

First responders used a drone to save someone's life in the Ozarks for the first time.

You can control drones with a VR headset and an exosuit called FlyJacket.

France's drone registry would require remote ID of drone operators.

Germany had less of an increase in drone related incidents last year than anticipated.

HBO as part of a publicity stunt has delivered pizza via drone to fans of the Silicon Valley TV show.

Irish researchers just received a grant for a drone traffic control system.

Japan will end beyond line of sight regulations for drones by the beginning of 2019.

NASA just completed a TC 3 level test of a UAV traffic management system.  TC 3 means it has a long, long ways to go.

Russia Post's delivery drone went splat on its debut.

Skydio's R1 seems to impress.

senseFly has released new software for drone flight management.

The Trump administration wants to extend the military's rights to down drones to the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department.

The University of Michigan has officially opened its M-Air Lab for drones.

Using drones as artificial guide stars for adaptive optics in astronomy.

Vapor.IO has teamed up with Hangar to act as a drone ATC system.

Zipline announced faster than ever drone delivery.

Anti drone tech is being used to protect the NASCAR races.

Self Driving Cars:

Self driving cars may be slow to be adopted by car buyers due to liability concerns.

Some are poo-pooing the self driving car hype.

Alibaba is testing its own self driving cars.

Aptiv says Uber kept disabling safety features in its software.

Arizona's governor has suspended Uber's license to test self driving cars in the state.

Aurora, the self driving car company, has hired a SpaceX exec and opened Pittsburgh and San Francisco offices.

Automated electric taxis may be great for the environment.

BMW has opened an autonomous driving lab in Germany.

Britain will not regulate self driving cars until they are market ready.

California's DMV will now allow fully driverless vehicle testing.

California is also proposing regulations for driverless cars picking up passengers.

Connecticut may be the next state to allow testing of self driving cars.

Cruise's CTO has been ousted after only 6 months.

One of Cruise's self driving cars got a ticket.

Cruise just bought Zippy.ai, but not for its tech!  But rather for the people.

Einride claims its self driving cargo vehicle will start deliveries this fall.

Ford's self driving car service will launch at scale in 2021.

Intel is responding to the Uber crash.

Mobileye has demonstrated with the video from Uber of the cyclist that their software would have picked up the issue at least a second before impact.

Nvidia has suspended self driving car tests.

Nvidia's Huang is urging caution in judging Uber's engineers.

Nvidia has a simulation framework to test self driving cars virtually before taking to the road.

Nvidia is pitching others to use their self driving car software.

Nvidia's Huang has also clarified that Uber is not using Nvidia's software.

Phantom Auto will be able to drive your self driving car remotely if it gets stuck.

Scotty Labs has raised a round of funding for its remote piloting of self driving cars.

Self driving cars could shrink parking lots.

A Tesla Model X crashed while using autopilot on Highway 101 in California.  The driver was killed.  The driver reportedly repeatedly complained about Autopilot.  The NTSB is rather unhappy that Tesla has been releasing details about the accident while its investigation is ongoing.  The NTSB says they kicked Tesla out of the investigation due to Tesla's habit of revealing information before the investigation was complete.  Tesla says they left voluntarily and then blamed the driver for the crash.  Watch a Tesla under autopilot veer for the exact same spot where the person was killed by the Model X.  There is growing evidence Autopilot doesn't handle lane dividers well.  Here's one take on the Model X crash.

Tesla has made it easier to use Autopilot in the Model 3.

Some are angry over a NYT review of the Model 3's Autopilot.

Tesla's turning lose of autonomy in its cars before its ready could seriously backfire.

Uber will not reapply for its permit to test self driving cars in California.

Uber may have been testing proprietary safety features on its self driving car when the lethal crash took place.  Or was it because there was a blind spot in the lidar?  There are reports Uber reduced the number sensors in the car.

Uber has settled with the family of the woman killed by their self driving car.

The head of Uber Freight is out.

VW will debut self parking by 2020.

Waymo is starting to eclipse Uber in the race to self driving taxis.

Waymo is certain their car tech would have not killed the woman that Uber's self driving car did.

Waymo is continuing with their rollout of the self driving car service.

Waymo is teaming up with jaguar for a high end self driving suv and self driving car service.

Waymo and Honda may team up for an autonomous delivery vehicle.

Waymo has promised not to harvest data from self driving cars.

Waymo has reportedly applied to run its self driving cars without drivers in California.

3d Printing:

A 3d printed house in France will soon have its occupants move in.  It gets reviewed.

A one bedroom 3d printed house was shown off in Italy.

Print the house!

is 3d printing for housing overhyped already?

LBNL is testing a 3d printer for all liquid (!) structures.

LLNL has developed a glass 3d printing tech for optical quality glass.

Mini's head of design talks how 3d printing could change cars.

MX3D's printed bridge is nearing finishing.

NASA's Orion capsule has a lot of 3d printed parts.

A new smart ink adds texture and color to 3d printers' products.

Is 3d printing or CNC machining better for making auto parts?

3d printed bandages are a being developed.

A high end restaurant in the Netherlands is looking at adding 3d printed food to the menu.

A Spanish startup 3d prints houses in 12 hours or less.

What is the future of open source 3d printers?

Nike has developed 3d printed textiles.

Hyundai Mobis is opening a workshop for 3d printed car parts.

Print that ...pizza?!?!

Robotics:

6 River Systems raised $25 million for its warehouse robot business.

Alibaba has a car vending machine.  Not kidding.

Aquabotix just unleashed its swarming, autonomous boat robots.

Autonaut is an autonomous surface vehicle (roboboat).

Autonomous ships will arrive before self driving cars.  Supposedly.

There are now grippers for robots that use artificial muscle.

An Alexa enabled, DIY robot will bring you beer.

Botboxer...anyone remember the scene from Dune, the movie that is...

Festo has unveiled a new generation of robotic animals.

Fetch just added two more robots to its catalog for warehouses.

Gecko inspired coatings are helping grippers for robots.

Honeybot is a honey pot robot for cyber security for industrial robots.

University of Houston has developed a new softbot.

A new company wants to make the Lego Mindstorms for everyone.

Massterly may be the first robotic ocean cargo company.

Monarch is a new surgerical robot.

Meet MELTANT-a.

Watch out, TaskRabbit!  NTU Singapore has a robot that can autonomously assemble an Ikea chair in 20 minutes.

Patients are more likely to accept robotic dentistry for noninvasion procedures.

Playground is betting big on robots.

Researchers have developed a robotic system for picking up irregularly shaped 3d printed parts.

Robots may help grow wine in California shortly.

New software from CMU translate 3d shapes into patterns for a knitting machine on demand.

CMU has teamed up with Sony to research cooking robots.

NIST has two robots to help develop the 5G standard.

Meet Scribit!

Now there's a bot to park your trailer.  Remote controlled for now...

Tapster's bots are designed to touch screens.  whuh?!

Some analysts are saying Tesla is overusing automation in its Model 3 assembly line.  Musk now agrees and states that is what has been slowing down production of the Model 3.  Tesla has temporarily stopped its Model 3 line.

UUV's are being used to map the ocean by sound.

Exoskeletons:

There's now a exoskeleton for skiers.

And there's an exoskeleton for fire fighters.

Cyborgism:

A FDA approved 3d printed prosthetic arm will go on sale shortly.

DARPA has a memory enhancing brain prosthesis.

A brain implant has returned sensation to a paralyzed man's arm.

Software Bots:

Using AI to predict biological age based on your smartphone and wearable tech.

AI is rapidly changing the location and types of job that is the best paying.

Can AI predict where life is likely on other worlds?

AI is spreading to nontech businesses.

To protect AI, show it fake data.

Can AI predict your life span?

An AI has been created to work on chemistry.

AI might become sexist, racist due to data being fed to it.

Some claim AI needs your data to be useful.

Adobe is starting to use AI in its products.

Amazon's Alexa can play music, podcasts, etc. now.

Alexa can also take charitable donations.

Alexa can control DVRs.

Alexa's hands' free mode is coming to Fire Tablets 7 & 8.

Alexa can now be given new skills without needing to know how to program.

Amazon is shipping DeepLens, a camera intended for use with machine learning, in June.

Apple has stolen Google's head of AI research.

Apple is on a hiring spree for Siri.

What Apple's Siri can learn from Google's Assistant.

Asana has an productivity monitoring AI.  The Computer has a phylogenic basal relative.

Baidu is showing off its pocket translator.

BenevolentAI has just raised $115M for its efforts to use bots to develop energy and

Bots on twitter are the source for 2/3's the popular article shares.

Can Bot stuntmen improve computer games?

A bot makes Flintstone cartoons from textual descriptions.

Can bots make a smart phone into a microscope?!

The Brits are worried about bias in AI.

California is putting forward a bill to force Twitter and Facebook to ID bots on their systems.

Computer vision systems can be tricked by changing the color of the object its meant to ID.

A Deep Learning paper spawned a large online collaboration.

Facebook has delayed its own digital assistant.  Couldn't possibly understand why.

Facebook's Zuckerberg thinks AI will curb hate speech online in 5 or so years.

Facebook is developing its own processors and hardware for its AI work.

France wants to become an AI hub.

Google X Labs is using AI to improve agriculture.

Google is turning to users outside the US to improve its AI.

Google has rolled out a natural language processor called "Talk to Books."

Google's AI can pick voices out of a crowd.

Google AI is being applied to cellular biology.

Google has a DIY AI kit.

HelpSelf is being marketed as an AI app to help with legal problems.

LawGeex is creating a software bot for contract review.

The Linux Foundation has launched a deep learning foundation.

Machine learning with supercomputers is being used for ag as well.

Machine learning helped speed up the discovery of metallic glass.

How to tell if your machine learning algorithm is actually working?

Microsoft now has public courses on AI.

Microsoft is touting a breakthrough for making chatbots more conversational.

Microsoft's AI knows when to politely interrupt a conversation.

Microsoft has a beta Cortana for Android.

MIT has severed ties with the 'always fatal' uploading startup, Nectome.

Nvidia's vision of AI gets discussed.  They want to put it in ARM level chips and in new petaflop computers.

OpenAI is challenging developers to play the 90s classic Sonic the Hedgehog using neural nets.

China's SenseTime startup just raised $600 million.

"The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution" is a new paper on arxiv about how algorithms were a bit more complex than their creators realized.

Should we worry about our algorithms, erm, 'mental health?'

The, uh, "case" for an AI to be US President.

Node just grabbed two AI researchers for its bot driven search tool.

Porsche invested in the Israeli company, Anagog.

Pursuing the perfect voice for software bots.

Researchers developed an algorithm for bots to detect face swaps on pictures.

Russia's S7 Airlines is looking at adding bots to improve customer communications.

Sinovation just raised $50M for its AI fund from BBVA.

Software bots are now able to generate 3d models of a person with a few seconds of video.

A new software bot can detect fakes, supposedly, on social networks.

Software bots don't handle crises very well.

Software bots are being used to find malware.

Who will benefit from enterprise level software bots?

A software bot to create chatbots for restaurants.

Using software bots to detect heart disease.

Stripe has developed bots to detect fraud.

Supermarkets will be taken over by AI, at least in the produce aisles.

Suplari is trying to bring "AI" to procurements.

The Univesity of Washington used data from DOGS to train an AI.

Xiaomi has developed its own assistant for China.

META:

Georgia Tech's Gil Weinberg talks robopocalypse in a podcast.

The ex head of Google in China says the list of countries that are going to do well in the Robopocalypse is comprised of two: America and China, everyone else is screwed.

Techcrunch has teamed up with UC Berkeley to present on the Robopocalypse at Zellerbach Hall on May 11, 2018.

Is tricking a bot hacking?

Proposed tariffs by the US against China target robotics.

The Chinese are starting to talk about Universal Basic Income to deal with the Robopocalyptic job genocide in Hong Kong.

However, Finland is scrapping their experiment in Universal Basic Income.

How automation will effect your city (in the US)?

What is the effect of the robopocalypse on innovation?

The EU is struggling with the idea of software being people.

Eastern Europe is embracing the robopocalypse due to a worker shortage.

The British House of Lords is worried about the robopocalypse.

Friday, April 20, 2018

NASA Might Build Multiple Propulsion Modules for the LOPG/Deep Space Gateway

s NASA prepares to request proposals from industry to develop the first element of its proposed cislunar gateway, the agency says it may be open to buying more than one of the modules.

NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, previously known as the Deep Space Gateway, will incorporate several modules, starting with one called the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). That element will provide power for the gateway and also use electric propulsion to maneuver the complex in cislunar space.

During a March 27 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Michele Gates, director of the Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters, said the agency was ready to move ahead with procurement of the module after five industry studies wrapped up earlier this month.

The four-month studies, led by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Space Systems Loral, examined nearly two dozen topics, ranging from the overall design approach for the PPE to specific engineering details.

Some of those companies were involved in previous studies for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which also intended to use electric propulsion on its robotic spacecraft to retrieve a boulder from a near Earth asteroid. “Our strategy is to leverage all of the work that’s been done, including on the Asteroid Redirect Mission,” said Gates, who previously managed those efforts.

For the PPE, NASA plans to develop the module in a public private partnership with industry. Once the module is launched and its performance demonstrated in space, NASA would have the option to then buy the module for use in the gateway.

Gates said that NASA expects to issue a draft solicitation for the PPE in April, with an industry day to take place in late April or early May. A final solicitation will then follow, with proposals due to NASA in late July.

NASA envisions a 2022 launch of the PPE on a commercial launch vehicle. There is “substantial” funding planned to support its development, she said, including $51.5 million for the current fiscal year and $542.1 million projected through fiscal year 2022.

However, NASA is not restricted to buying a single PPE. The proposal synopsis, released in February, states that NASA is planning “potentially one or more contract awards” for PPE development.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

SLS EM-1 Mission Making Progress, but STILL Behind Schedule

Top NASA human exploration administrators briefed the Human Exploration Operations (HEO) committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on March 26, providing an update on development, testing, and preparations for the first integrated flight of the Orion crew spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is currently expected to launch in 2020.

The pacing items for reaching launch readiness, referred to as “critical paths” in the schedule, continue to be construction of the first SLS Core Stage and the first Orion European Service Module (ESM). The agency is targeting the end of 2019 as a target launch date, but both critical path items are running around three months behind that schedule.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Orbital ATK Plans Next Generation Launcher Debut in 3 Years

Orbital ATK is preparing for the next phase of development for their Next Generation Launcher (NGL) – a solid and liquid fueled rocket designed for National Security, NASA science missions, and commercial flights. Under the current plan, Orbital ATK intends to introduce NGL from LC-39B at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, with certification flights in early 2021, with operational flights set to begin later that year.

NGL aims for debut in three years:

The progeny of NGL can be traced back to 2004, when then U.S. President George W. Bush announced the Constellation program, consisting of the crew launch vehicle known as Ares I – a five-segment Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) rocket, atop which sat a Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Hydrogen (LOX/LH2) upper stage.

A test flight variant of Ares I, known as Ares I-X, completed a successful test flight on 29 October 2009, shortly after which the Constellation program was cancelled by then U.S. President Barack Obama in favor of developing a more robust rocket that could carry both crew and cargo, the SLS, to locations Beyond Low Earth Orbit and shifting International Space Station crew rotation missions from NASA-made rockets to commercial rockets and capsules – a goal SpaceX and Boeing plan to fulfill.

Despite the Constellation program’s cancellation, Orbital ATK, the predecessor of which would have built the five-segment SRB for Ares I and the company that is now building the five-segment dual SRBs for SLS, continued to see a usefulness for the overall Ares I design. This initially translated in 2011 to the Liberty rocket, a five-segment SRB first stage with an Ariane V core serving as the upper stage.

link.

addendum: the new rocket is called the OmegA.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hints of China's Space Program Come From National People's Congress

China’s legislature wrapped up its annual session in Beijing in mid-March after making headlines for lifting a two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, making Xi Jinping the People’s Republic’s most powerful leader since founder Mao Zedong.

But in the shadow of the major political stories, the involvement of dozens of space sector officials in the high-profile 18-day long rubber-stamp political gathering also provided a rare opportunity for updates on various aspects of China’s space program and an outline of its reliably nebulous scheduling.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Russian Gov Issued a Contract for a Nuclear Space Tug

The Russian government has issued a contract to RSC Energia to develop a new class of rockets for lunar exploration and the contract documents indicate that a nuclear-powered space tug will be develop as well.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Did China Approach Vanuatu to Build a Permanent Military Base?

China has approached Vanuatu about establishing a permanent military presence on the tiny Pacific island, Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday, a plan that would likely stoke regional tensions.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made, but preliminary talks have been held about locating a full military base on Vanuatu. It added that the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday said she had been assured by Vanuatu officials that there was no formal proposal from Beijing, but she stopped short of addressing whether there had been any unofficial talks.

“The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such proposal, but it is a fact that China is engaging in infrastructure investment activities around the world,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

“I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice,” she said.

A spokesman for Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment, telephone calls to the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra were not answered, and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra did not comment.

The Fairfax Media report said the preliminary discussions involved an initial access agreement, under which Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refueled and restocked, and that would eventually lead to a full military base.

Such a plan would mark an expansion of China’s military aspirations beyond its controversial activities in Asia, particularly the South China Sea, where it has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and airstrips.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Pondering the Precambrian #8

Proterozoic:

NeoProterozoic:

Some paleosols found in the Baltic were formed during the NeoProterozoic during an extended weathering event.

What came first?  High levels oxygen in the atmosphere or animals?  Animals.

Evidence encrusting became an ability of Metazoans during the Ediacaran.

Were the Beltanelliformis fossils of the Ediacaran just cyanobacteria colonies?

There is evidence of carbon isotopic excursions from the Ediacaran Bilara Group in India.

The Ediacaran carbon isotopic excursions in South China are associated with phosphite upwellings.

There is evidence of the Ediacaran glaciations from Morocco.

Evidence of the transition from anoxic oceanic conditions during the Cryogenian to the oxic in the Ediacaran as well as the great meltwater from the Cryogenian snowball has been found.

Evidence of the mixing of glacial waters with the anoxic ocean has been found in California from during the Cryogenian.

There appears to have been an oxygen spike during the early Tonian.

There are banded iron formations in early NeoProterozoic Hainan, China.

Can Nanosims be useful in examining organic walled microfossils from the NeoProterozoic?

It appears something was burrowing in the late Ediacaran of Mongolia, much earlier than previously thought.


Exploring the effect of oxygen on the formation of haze in the NeoProterozoic atmosphere.

MesoProterozoic:

The Upper Vindhyans formation in India dates from the Late MesoProterozoic.

Evidence from China suggests the oceans of the Ectasian were anoxic to suboxic.

There is also evidence of Ectasian/Calymmian boundary oceans having banded iron formations.

Evidence from China also suggests active hydrothermal systems put a lot of iron into the shallow seas during the break up of the Columbia supercontinent.

Does photosynthesis in modern plants date to the Stenian?

PaleoProterozoic:

It appears the oceans of the Siderian become oxygenated 250 million years BEFORE the atmosphere did.

There is evidence a snowball earth scenario unfolded during the Siderian as well.

It looks like there is evidence of a tsunami or a storm from the PaleoProterozoic.

Organic remains in granular iron formations suggest they might be biological in origin.

Paleoproterozoic stromatolites from South Africa were formed in a restricted basin.

Evidence of the Great Oxygenation Event comes from rock salt from Russia.

Archean:

The Late Heavy Bombardment is being questioned.

By the end of the NeoArchean, the first modern continents had formed.

There may be volcanogenic pseudofossils in the PaleoArchean formation at Pilbara.

There's evidence of an oceanic plateau from the Archean in Nunavut, Canada.

University of Tuebingen in Germany and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing experimentally attempted to recreate the ocean of the Archean to explain its banded iron formations.

When did life originate?  At the dawn of the Archean?  Or later?

Hadean:

What the nitrogen cycle of a prebiotic Earth might have been like.

META:

Chromium isotopes can give false data for oxygen levels.

Chemists have found a plausible formula for the origin of life in Prebiotic earth.

Argnine might have played an important role in the origin of life.

A new origin of life hypothesis has been forwarded.

Did volcanic eruptions spew enough sulfur dioxide to kick off the origin of life?

Manganese oxides can produce pseudofossils.

Constraining the Early Earth's climate and oceanic acidity.

When was the earliest life could have originated?

Did ice in the earliest Earth's ocean help facilitate the origin of life?

Oceanic tides may greatly decrease when supercontinents form.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A/2017 U1 Oumuamua: Just a bit More Info



Oumuamua is likely from a binary star system.

What can Oumuamua teach us?

The Greenbank Radio Telescope listened to Oumuamua for the OH 18 cm emission line.

An Australian radio telescope listened for SETI signals from Oumuamua.

Oumuamua is in an excited spin state.

The effects of tidal torques on Oumuamua.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cryomagma on Europa



Authors:

Lesage et al

Abstract:

Europa's surface exhibits morphological features associated with a low craters density that demonstrate a recent internal activity. In particular, the morphology of the smooth plains covering parts of the surface, and their relationship to the surrounding terrains suggest that they result from viscous liquid extrusions. Furthermore, recent literature explains the emplacement of liquid-related features, such as double ridges, lenticulae and chaos by the presence of liquid reservoirs beneath the surface. We model the ascent of liquid water through a dike or a pipe-like conduit, from a sub-surface reservoir to Europa's surface and derive the eruption time-scale and the total volume extruded at the end of the eruption, depending on the chamber volume and depth. We also estimate the freezing time of the sub-surface reservoir necessary to trigger an eruption. Considering available data for density and eutectic temperature of salt impurities recently proposed for Europa, we discuss their effect on the cryomagma freezing time and ascent. For plausible volumes and depths varying between 0.1 km3 ≤ V ≤ 10 km3 and 100 m ≤ H ≤ 10 km, the total extruded cryolava volume ranges from 105 to 108 m3 and the time scale of the eruptions varies from few minutes to few tens of hours. The freezing time-scale of the cryomagma pocket varies with the cryomagma composition: it varies between 102 to 103 years for a pure water cryomagma and from 102 to 104 years for a briny cryomagma.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Europa Lander Being Redesigned for Lowering Cost

Revised concepts for a proposed Europa lander mission could reduce its mass and cost by simplifying its science requirements and doing away with a dedicated communications relay.

In a presentation at a meeting of the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science of the National Academies March 28, Kevin Hand of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that feedback from a mission concept review for the proposed lander last June led to changes in the design to reduce its cost.

“The technology and science were well received. The marching orders that we got out of that review were to see if we could simplify the architecture to reduce complexity and cost,” he said. While there’s been little discussion of the lander’s cost, Hand said there was a “desire” to reduce its cost to below $3 billion.

The concept for the mission presented at that review involved the launch of the lander on a Space Launch System rocket no earlier than late 2025. The spacecraft would enter orbit around Jupiter in 2030 with a landing on Europa to follow no earlier than December 2031. The battery-powered lander would operate on the surface for at least 20 days, relying on a communications relay spacecraft in orbit to return data to Earth.

Hand said the project team looked at options to do away with the relay spacecraft by giving the lander a larger antenna to enable direct-to-Earth communications. That concept uses a flat-panel antenna 80 centimeters across, versus antenna smaller antennas 30 to 40 centimeters across intended for communications with the relay. One quadrant of that larger antenna has been built and tested at JPL, he said, with “encouraging” results.

Another factor that enables the change in design, he said, is a shift in the science requirements for the lander. A report by a science definition team last year had included, as one of the mission’s priorities, the ability of the lander’s instruments to directly detect any life that might exist in the moon’s icy surface.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sputtering and detection of large organic molecules from Europa

Sputtering and detection of large organic molecules from Europa 
Authors: 
Johnson et al 
Abstract:
Mass spectroscopy of bio-molecules by heavy ion induced sputtering, which became a practical laboratory procedure, was also suggested as a potential tool for spacecraft studies of targets of interest in astrobiology. With the planning of new missions to Europa, there is renewed interest in the possibility of detecting organic molecules that might have originated in its subsurface ocean and can be sputtered from its surface often intact by impacting energetic heavy ions trapped in Jupiter's magnetosphere. Here we review the laboratory data and modeling bearing on this issue. We then give estimates of the ejection into the gas-phase of trace organic species embedded in an ice matrix on Europa's surface and their possible detection during a flyby mission.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Emily Lakadwalla on Titan @ LPSC

The Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) is always madness. Once upon a time, I was able to dash off numerous blog posts in teeny bits of time snatched between sessions, but that was a younger me. I think it was also a less busy time in planetary science, with fewer missions. Now there’s an embarrassment of riches and I hardly know where to begin. So I’ll spin the wheel of possible LPSC session topics, and: Titan! I’ll talk about Saturn’s moon Titan.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

China's Second Aircraft Carrier is Ready for Sea Trials

China's first domestically built carrier, known as the Type 001A, is undergoing preparations for its first sea trial, while discussions about its name show that Chinese people hold high expectations of the carrier's ability to resolve the Taiwan question.

According to the latest online photos from the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) construction site in Liaoning Province, where the carrier was launched and outfitted, the scaffolds on the carrier have been completely removed, and a phased array radar has been installed.

"All the equipment and devices on the carrier are in the joint debugging stage, and the main engine has been powered. In 2018, we will present a surprise to the Chinese people," DSIC Chairman Liu Zheng said, according to a report on cctv.com, the official website of China Central Television, on March 13.

Liu, who is also the general director of construction of the Type 001A and a member of the National People's Congress (NPC), made the comments to cctv.com when he was attending the Two Sessions.

"This all proves that the Type 001A is getting ready for its first sea trial, and the exact timing will depend on factors like the weather and sea conditions. April 23 is Navy Day, the founding day of the PLA Navy [April 23 1949], so this might also be taken into consideration," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"After the sea trial, which normally takes about 6-12 months, it will be ready for delivery to the PLA Navy, so it's very likely we will see the carrier enlisted by the end of 2018," said Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Paleolithic Papers #19

Genus Homo:

A British Columbian family found a hominin trackway dating from 90,000 years ago in South Africa.  This was certainly from the genus Homo and probably even H. sapiens.

Bone retouchers from circa 115,000 years ago were found in China.  John Hawks comments on them.

Paleolithic bone tools from northern China are examined.

A lower density of carnivores in Europe might have allowed hominins to thrive.

Almost immediately after the glaciers retreated in Germany, hominins moved in.

H. sapiens:

A Pleistocene Moroccan had its genetic ancestry traced to the Near East and Subsaharan Africa.

The Toba super eruption did not cause a volcanic winter in eastern Africa.

Modern humans seem to have been just fine in South Africa, too.

John Hawks takes a look at the Toba bottleneck.

Cheddar Man, the prehistoric individual found in Britain with modern descendants in the area had dark skin.  By modern standards, he was black.

Can micro amounts of flint in archaeological sites help indicate if there was flint knapping taking place?

Evidence of modern humans has been found that pushes back our species origin by tens of thousands of years.

Major climate and technological change abounded at the dawn of modern humans.

Footprints of human beings have been found off the coast of Canada dating to the Late Pleistocene.

H. neanderthalensis:

The oldest fire forged multi purpose tool dates from 170,000 years ago in Europe.

Brown Bears, Cave Bears and Neandertals were competitors in Pleistocene Europe.  It seems in some cases, Neandertals actually hunted the bears.

The complexity of Neandertal technology gets discussed.

The classic Neandertal La Ferrassie 1 gets a redescription and that includes new pathologies found.

Neandertals seem to have a rather different thorax than modern humans.

Could Neandertal's lack of drawing be related to how they hunted?  Probably mistaken.  See the next line.

The first cave art is probably Neandertal and predates known modern humans arriving in Europe by 20,000 years.  This suggests Neandertals thought like modern people do. (original paper)

The El Sidrón juvenile Neandertal reconstruction has led to some controversy.

Sima de los Huesos Hominin:

The SdlH hominin had legs more like Neandertals than early modern humans based on their cross section.  This would lend support to the idea the SdlH hominins are basal Neandertals or ancestral to Denisovans and Neandertals.

Denisovans:

It appears that Denisovans interbred with modern humans twice.

H. heidelbergensis:

The bite strength of H. heidelbergensis and H. sapiens is compared.

H. naledi:

New excavations are underway at the site where H. naledi was discovered.

The teeth of H. naledi are considered with their potential diet in mind.

META:

The paper "The revised stratigraphy of the hominin-bearing site of Kromdraai (Gauteng, South Africa) and associated perspectives " has been retracted by the editors of the journal.

The evolution of eccrine sweat glands in human lineage gets examined.

Hominid brain size grew over time.  John Hawks takes issue with the paper.  (and he also calls homo floresiensis by its name)

Were grass leaves a source of food for hominins?

Did hominins use stone tools to make nightly defensive shelters from Acacia trees?

Hominins risked ischemia when going bipedal.

Hip extensor mechanics and the evolution of walking upright.

Did Pleistocene hominins really bury their dead?

Friday, April 06, 2018

People Deforested the Central African Tropical Rain Forest 2,600 Years ago

The forested expanses of Central Africa host the second largest block of tropical rainforest on Earth (after Amazonia), stretching over around 2 × 106 km2. They are the great green heart of Africa, and changes in vegetation cover are likely to have important but poorly understood influences on the climate of much of the continent (1). A remarkable feature is that this blanket of forest appears quite tenuous—under the arid climates of the ice ages, the forest appears to have retreated into isolated pockets surrounded by savanna grasslands. Even in the climatically stable Holocene, there appears to have been periods of substantial forest retreat. In particular, there is evidence for a period of major forest loss between 3,000 and 2,000 y ago [termed the Late Holocene rainforest crisis (LHRC) (2)]. Attributing the cause of this decline is complicated by the fact that this period coincided with major expansion of Neolithic and early Iron Age farmers southward from the Nigeria/Cameroon border regions into western Central Africa. Did the farmers take advantage of a forest retreat driven by climate drying, or were they the primary cause of the forest loss? In recent years, there has been a vigorous debate on the cause of the LHRC. Now, Garcin et al. (3) provide new data and an unexpected new insight, presenting strong evidence that there was no strong drying event, and therefore suggesting that it was direct deforestation that caused this retreat of the Central African rainforests.




Better start rethinking the anthropocene, folks.