Friday, March 30, 2007

Arctic Melting Definitely Man Made

The dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years is the result of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions combined with natural cycles, according to a new study.

The loss of ice will likely change water temperatures and affect the circulation of ocean currents, which may alter climates around the world, the study suggests.

The study reviewed previous research of Arctic sea ice, which showed that the ice has been steadily disappearing since 1979.

In September 2005 satellite images revealed that the Arctic ice was at its lowest level in some 50 years of observation.

"If we compare how much ice we had in September 2005 with a typical September, we've lost an amount of ice about twice the size of Texas," said lead author Mark Serreze, senior researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

"So we're talking about a lot of real estate."

mmm. Greenland.

That Mammal Study

There have been a lot of reactions and comments to this study. There have been a lot of criticisms of said study. Read a lot of the informed comments at Pharyngula. PZ Meyers then went and recommended reading Sandwalk's commentary.

I then cried out in a bit of nastiness upon reading it that was designed explicitly for PZ Meyers: Gawd's Own Butthole! Why?

Read this:

Furthermore, the data clearly shows no connection between the mass extinction event at the K/T boundary (65 Myr ago) and subsequent radiations of mammalian groups. This effectively rules puts an end to the long held belief that mammals diversified after the devastation in order to fill up the niches left by dinosaurs. This is not the first paper to refute that belief but it may be the final nail in the coffin.

This summary serves as a warning to those who continue to associate evolution with environmental change. At this level of analysis there does not seem to be a connection between rates of speciation and climate change. This is most obvious with respect to the asteroid impact of 65 My ago. While it led to mass extinction, it did not lead to increases in the rate of evolution of the survivors. The branching pattern of cladogenesis in the figure is hardly affected by the cataclysm.

(emphasis added)

1. This study was about modern mammal orders. This excludes all those that got mopped between the KT and now. There are numerous orders that are no longer with us. It's very well known by the paleo types that study mass extinctions that the critters that arise immediately after a ME event are often not those that carry on later. As I stated up on James Nicoll's LJ, The Paleogene and Triassic had rather different ecologies than the subsequent rest of their respective eras.

2. The rise of the modern orders happens to coincide with, oh, say the damned End Eocene Extinctions? Wait. Is that an environmental change? Gasp, yes, it was! The origination of the different mammal lineages happens to track, at first glance, with the fact that Laurasia and Gondwanaland were tearing themselves apart at the time. And if you look at the paleogeography (here and here), it gets even more apparent.

I am going to stop there. I am already irritated and I am likely if I add to much more to pop something off that will reflect badly on me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Antarctica's Temperatures

Originally, I had planned to modify this and put the possible future temperatures on there. I really didn't have time today. I'll see if I can do that tomorrow, but no promises. However, if you look at everything from the Transantarctic mountains over onto the peninsula, note that the summer temperatures if you oversimplify and just jack up the temperature 25 C, then you get summer temperatures of between 5 and 25 C. Winter temperatures are between -10 and 15 C depending on location.

Topsoil might be an issue. Any technologies to rapidly produce it?

William Walker

I was just doing a quick read of his wikipedia biography and his places of origin, visit, study, and politics - albeit a 19th century version - he has far too many frakkin parallels with myself, thanx.

I'm feeling a tad freaked out.

Is it my fate to die in Honduras?


Army tests high-tech concept vehicles

A group of soldiers has been busy testing a series of high-tech military concept vehicles outfitted with remote weapons systems, night-vision capabilities and enough strength to sustain the concussion of a roadside bomb.

The vehicles, while only in the concept stage, are part of the Army's $60 million program to modernize its aging tactical fleet for the challenges of today's military missions.

"What we're running with now has become antiquated," said Tim Connor, a Defense Department contractor who is overseeing the project.

He said the soldiers at Fort Lewis got their hands on two utility trucks and two maneuver sustainment vehicles Wednesday "to play with them and try to break 'em."

Unlike traditional Humvees, which often don't have enough protection for the dangers soldiers in
Iraq, the concept vehicles are equipped with remote weapons systems, night-vision capabilities and diesel-electric hybrid engines. They also include ballistics glass, video cameras and touch-screen controls.

This is a first step in a crazy sized procurement to replace the HMMV, etc. after lessons learend from Iraq: lightly armored vehicles are so much lunch in urban situations...hmm. That sounds familiar for some reason. Maybe it was something learned before? In another war?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Modern Mammals didn't Immediately Benefit from KT Event

The big dinosaur extinction of 65 million years ago didn't produce a flurry of new species in the ancestry of modern mammals after all, says a huge study that challenges a long-standing theory.

Scientists who constructed a massive evolutionary family tree for mammals found no sign of such a burst of new species at that time among the ancestors of present-day animals.

Only mammals with no modern-day descendants showed that effect.

It's not necessarily the last word in this subject, but a first step. it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Paleogene (edtd) was the Cenozoic Triassic in certain ways.

Greenland's Ice Loss

Just a few years ago, the world's climate scientists predicted that Greenland wouldn't have much impact at all on sea level in the coming decades. But recent measurements show that Greenland's ice cap is melting much faster than expected.

These new data come from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace). Launched in March 2002, the twin Grace satellites circle the globe using gravity to map changes in Earth's mass 500 kilometers (310 miles) below. They are providing a unique way to monitor and understand Earth's great ice sheets and glaciers.

Grace measurements have revealed that in just four years, from 2002 to 2006, Greenland lost between 150 and 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year. One cubic kilometer is equal to about 264 billion gallons of water. That's enough melting ice to account for an increase in global sea level of as much as 0.5 millimeters (0.019 inches) per year, according to Isabella Velicogna and John Wahr of the University of Colorado, Boulder. They published their results in the scientific journal Nature last fall. Since global sea level has risen an average of three millimeters (0.1 inch) per year since 1993, Greenland's rapidly increasing contribution can't be overlooked.

And speaking of Greenland's ice loss contributing to the sea rise...

If what I've read is true, and I've not missed or misunderstood anything, there are two places where global warming is really cooking. The first is up north in the Arctic: Greenland is warming at a rate three times as fast as the rest of the world, frex, and may end up with a climate 15 C warmer than current (or more in the longer term). The other place is the Antarctic Peninsula.

Yes, I am on file as saying that the net change for Antarctica as a whole is neutral. That doesn't mean that the whole continent is the going to have a uniform climate. It doesn't now. The Peninsula is apparently warming five times faster than the rest of the world, but the interior is getting colder and building up even more ice and snow actually making it a net neutral. However, the Peninsula might be a nicer place to live, if it goes up 25 C in temperature.

I believe Argentina has a leg up in colonization there if so. Anyone for an Argentinian-* Antarctic Peninsula War?

Sea Level Rise Critique of the IPCC report

Comparison of the 2001 IPCC sea-level scenarios (starting in 1990) and observed data: the Church and White (2006) data based primarily on tide gauges (annual, red) and the satellite altimeter data (updated from Cazenave and Nerem 2004, 3-month data spacing, blue, up to mid-2006) are shown with their trend lines. Note that the observed sea level rise tends to follow the uppermost dashed line of the IPCC scenarios, namely the one "including land ice uncertainty", see first Figure.

I swiped this from the above critique. I read real climate as a contrarian PoV input. However, it ought to be noted when you have real data and it matches the worst case scenario you ought to think about that a tad.

History Channel gets...weird?!

A quarter year into her run as History Channel chief, Nancy Dubuc is revving up the network, greenlighting for production shows with quicker pacing and more lively topics, including fighting dinosaurs, modern martial-arts gurus and aliens.

Series slated to premiere in 2007/08 are Human Weapon, a weekly search for the master of various martial-arts forms; Jurassic Fight Club, a dissection of the battles that took place between dinosaurs; Ice Road Truckers, a docu-drama about long-haul truckers whose cross ice to get food to miners; Tougher in Alaska, a look at what it takes to survive in the state; and The Universe, a computer-generated look at what life would be like on other planets.


Well, at least it's not the WW2 Channel anymore. That's a good thing. I think.

U Wyoming Takes a Hit

To gain access to the latest in computer technology, the University of Wyoming announced it would cut $2 million from its School of Energy Resources (SER) to fund a $60-million supercomputer center near Cheyenne.

The announcement was made Friday during a public meeting of the UW Board of Trustees in the Wyoming Union Family Room.

Myron B. Allen, vice president of Academic Affairs, told the UW Trustees, Gov. Dave Freudenthal and state legislators that the university would cut $2 million from the SER budget to fund the construction of a supercomputer center for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The NCAR announced in January it is moving to Cheyenne.

The $2 million is a match to the $19 million the Wyoming Legislature has allocated for the construction of the center, which is scheduled to begin this year.

The university agreed to the match so it can gain access to up to 20 percent of the NCAR’s resources for academic research, Allen said.

“It opens up tremendous opportunities for the university and the SER,” he said.

The Wyoming Legislature had appropriated $12.1 million to run the SER through 2007 and 2008, Allen said. That amount will decrease to $10.1 million following UW’s $2-million match.

Nothing's free.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Sino-Russian Mission to Mars

A Russian rocket will lift a Chinese satellite and Russian exploration vehicle to survey Mars and Phobos, the innermost and biggest of the red planet's moons, the China Daily reported, citing China's National Space Administration.


The small Chinese satellite will explore Mars while the Russian craft will land on Phobos to explore the environment and scoop up soil samples.

The Russians try again for Phobos and the Chinese make a bid for a Martian orbiter.

Very Interesting.

Space Race? Oh yeah!

Giant Aussie Toad

A huge cane toad the size of a small dog has been captured in the Australian tropical city of Darwin, startling environmentalists who are fighting to stop the poisonous reptiles from spread across the country.

"It's a monster toad," said Paul Cowdy from FrogWatch which captured the cane toad on Monday night.

"We've never seen a cane toad this big," he said on Tuesday. "It's a male and normally females are bigger."

Is there something in the Oz water?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Make It Stop! Please!

Environment ministers from Austria, Iceland, Ireland and Norway said Monday that nuclear power was not the solution to global warming.

In a joint statement following a meeting in Dublin, the four ministers from the non-nuclear countries said the "inherent risks and problems associated with the nuclear energy option remain and it can not therefore claim to be a clean alternative to fossil fuel use."

They said it was the sovereign right of each country to decide its own energy mix.

Now add in the fact that China is electing to add MORE coal power plants and so is...GERMANY! The Grunlanders themselves are too! I guess they don't like their climate much either. Too bad there's a chance it might actually make it, y'know, colder.

Global Warming Doesn't Just Mean Warming

Some climates may disappear from Earth entirely, not just from their current locations, while new climates could develop if the planet continues to warm, a study says. Such changes would endanger some plants and animals while providing new opportunities for others, said John W. Williams, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Tropical regions in particular may face unexpected changes, particularly the rain forests in the Amazon and Indonesia, Williams' researchers concluded.


Areas like the Southeastern United States and the Arabian Peninsula may also be affected, the researchers said.

And they said mountain areas such as in Peruvian and Colombian Andes and regions such as Siberia and southern Australia face a risk of climates disappearing altogether.

That doesn't mean these regions would have no climate at all — rather their climate would change and the conditions currently in these areas would not occur elsewhere on Earth.

Pielou stated in his work that the climate of the world has never repeated itself. The climate keeps finding novels ways to express itself. The future won't be an Oligocene or Eocene or Cretaceous repeat. It will be something new. Or good or ill.

Just hold on tight, it's going to be a wild ride!

For Crying Out Loud

If I see ONE. MORE. PRESS. RELEASE. about how some company has a supercomputer in a box, I am going to start shredding such statements on this blog. Being a supercomputer is a moving goal post, a Cray 1 would not be a supercomputer today. hell, it's not even comparable to the desktops of today except, perhaps, in memory bandwidth.

At any rate, stop with the stupid frakkin press releases for crying out loud! If you're not above 5 teraflops these days, I don't wanna hear about you, k?


More Food!

This weekend I convinced my wife to make Okroshka. This stuff is just plain uberyummy. I can just eat until I feel like I swallowed a lead balloon. My daughter - who once was an eat-anything kind of girl has turned to be a finicky eater (for now) - shoves the stuff down. There are two things though. If you're worried about the waistline, walk away. In fact walk away from ALL (with blink tag even) Ukrainian food. second, if you're a SoNMican, you're prolly not going to like this either (based on past experience when we last visited and cooked for everyone). That said, the wikipedia aritcle that includes okroshka doesn't do it service and it describes it as something rather different than what my wife makes. My wife does not use kvass! She uses mineral water and buttermilk. We're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's walk through maing some.

The main ingredient of the dish is potatoes though: it's Ukrainian food, you just can't get around them! You boil them first - often six or seven of them. Boil them with the skin on (but washed). Then peel, dice, and set aside. Boil some eggs. We normally boil as many as we do potatoes: peel, dice, and add to the potatoes. Then take a bunch of green onions as bought from the store, rinse, and dice. Dump in the potatoe mix. Take an English cucumber - I do not recommend a std cucumber that most of us grew up with - and also dice and toss in with the potato mix. Use the whole thing and don't worry about skinning it. You will need your favourite ham now. It is closer to lunch meat than any other variety, but doesn't need to be. We use a low fat, so-called 'heart healthy ham'. Dice and toss in with the rest. Add a dash of salt. Mix the potatoes, green onions, cucumber, and ham. Serve into bowls. Add mayonnaise! To taste, but seriously, not too much. Everything ought to be coated lightly after you mix. Mayo seems to be a staple in modern Ukrainian food too (we recommend a slightly vinegar-y mayo, btw, not Best Foods or Hellman's stuff) . Then add buttermilk. For a large bowl, this ought to be a cup of buttermilk. My wife prefers less, as in half that, I prefer slightly more. Finally add about a quarter cup of mienral water or sparkling water. Lyuda prefers more. I like only a tablespoon, myself.

The taste is nothing like anything I have had before: it doesn't have an equivalent in American food. It sounds like a potato salad, but its not. It's very good but, honestly, I didn't like it the first time I had it. I am thoroughly an addict now. I would also NOT call this a light food unlike what the wikipedia entry says.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More than One International Scofflaw

For its part, Russia does not at all feel that it must follow the same set of rules or standards for settling the Kosovo and the post-Soviet conflicts. While professing to link those processes for bargaining purposes, Moscow keeps the two tracks starkly distinct from one another in practice. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov implicitly underscored that dual approach in his March 21 government-hour speech to the Duma. For the first time on the record, Lavrov termed Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria “republics,” soon after his MFA had begun referring to those enclaves’ leaders as “presidents” in its official documents. Lavrov’s deliberate choice of words delighted the ultranationalist opposition politician Sergei Baburin, who is a staunch advocate both of Serbia’s “territorial integrity” and, simultaneously, of recognizing the post-Soviet secessionist territories.

The Russian government itself follows that dual approach increasingly boldly. In his speech, Lavrov asserted that any link between the Kosovo resolution and post-Soviet conflict resolution would not be direct or automatic. Whatever the outcome in Kosovo -- that is, even if it preserves Serbia’s territorial integrity -- Russia will in any case be responsible for the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia because they are citizens of Russia, Lavrov argued. The clear implication is that Russia would hold on to these occupied territories of Georgia while at the same time advocating for territorial integrity in the case of Serbia (Interfax, March 21).

Muted commentary here.

Europe's ATV To Launch No Earlier Than September

Testing issues in Russia and continued uncertainty over the date of NASA's next space shuttle launch have pushed back the first flight of Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to September at the earliest, and perhaps to November.

The European Space Agency (ESA) originally had hoped to launch the Jules Verne - its pathfinder ATV - to the International Space Station (ISS) this summer. Now it appears that will be the earliest it will be possible to ship the vehicle to the European launch site near Kourou, French Guiana.

Launch of the ATV in turn drives the launch of ESA's Columbus pressurized laboratory module, since managers don't want to send up Columbus on a space shuttle until ATV has flown on its Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

Wish them luck. Hopefully they get it right the first time. That's hard to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Following Links

There's an interesting theory posted about what caused the Late Devonian Mass Extinctions. I am unsure if I buy it, but it's an interesting one: the plants did it. That is to say that as the land mases were increasingly vegetated, the ecology didn't "know" what to do with this the biomass and it ended up deposited in the ocean which contributed to the so-called Black Shales. At the same time, the plants would have rapidly drown down the CO2 levels which would cause a global cooling and glaciation.

This stands in contrast to McGhee arguing for an impact. Or Hallam et al for global anoxia. Or Ward's hypoxia hypotheses: in fact, this would stand at 180 deg opposite of Ward's. The most recent paper is from 2001, so it might have died already. Rather interesting stuff.

The proposer's website is the title link and the Devonian Times link is just below.

The Devonian Times

Interesting read.


Food that I ate growing up turns out to be rather different than what other families had on their dinner tables. I really didn't realize it at the time. In fact, it hits me on a regular basis these days as that now I am a parent. My daughter isn't eating standard Americana fare either. She's getting healthy - or unhealthy, if you know the cuisine at all - doses of Ukrainian food: borscht, numerous salads that are potato based, dried fish (RIVKA!), and other foods. Often my personal realizations about my diet growing up happen when I am talking about what my daughter is eating. It often goes something like: Avrora's eating x and we never did when I was growing up. We ate Y instead. The other person in the conversation often looks at me strange at first and then says something to the effect of 'we never ate Y either."

Those are not the only times that I get that set of realizations. Back in college - or perhaps more properly, living in southern New Mexico - I had a rather rude awakening. What other people called 'bratwurst' was not what I grew up with at all. The nasty stuff they were peddling was filled coarsely ground pork that even had the wrong color. They're was a fleshy, grey that would turn brown when cooked. The ones I grew up with were white. They were also flavoured different. Sometimes the peddled stuff didn't have much taste at all, but that's an aside. There would be a handful of sausages that I would encounter from childhood like this, but the bratwurst was the most traumatic: it ahd been a huge favourite when I was a kid and not being able to eat it at least once in a while as an adult seemed like one of those petty insults that life occasionally tosses at you. The last place I could find it - erratically - was in Los Alamos and only now and again. Since I didn't visit LA that often after August 1992, well, I didn't have a chance to see if they had it at all.

Now, don't get me wrong, I developed an intense fixation for New Mexico green chile - which not even an excellent sausage could replace - but good sausage was not something that was around (other than Chorizo, which is excellent, but not the same at all!).

Then came my move to the SF Bay Area. Put away the sausage jokes, you NMican twits! There happened to be a lot more out here. I actually found a number that I like, but for the longest time, muy favourite to munch on was bockwurst. The one I like is a white variant. I've also developed a taste for a variant of british bangers. One day, when I was shopping with Avrora in the produce store we prefer (Berkeley Bowl), we were bolting across the always busy store to get to a bathroom (potty-training, such a joy! but, dear lord worth it!) and I noticed by chance something labeled "bratwurst" and it was white! I didn't have a chance to get it then, but later, oh yeah. Lyuda didn't care for it, but when I bit in, I definitely knew what I'd found. It wasn't exactly the same, but really damned close.

And, yes, it was damned good.

OTOH, even as a kid, I never did develop a taste for blutwurst. I also never developed a taste for limburger either, but that's not a sausage, I think, unless its one four score old.

*green look*

On the gripping hand though, Avrora's definitely going to get a different POV on food than even I do. The other night, we had bockwurst, steamed artichokes (a current favourite of hers and ours) and couscous w/ fried mushrooms and onions. Upon reflection, maybe I can get my wife to make okroshka. That stuff is quite good too.

Burrowing Dinosaurs

Oryctodromeus cubicularis
A new dinosaur that dug burrows and cared for its young in dens has been found in southwest Montana.

The 95-million-year-old bones of an adult Oryctodromeus cubicularis and two juveniles were found jumbled together in a burrow about 15 miles from Lima, Montana State University paleontologist David Varricchio said in an online paper published March 21 by the British scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Co-authors were Yoshihiro Katsura, a former MSU graduate student, and Anthony Martin from Emory University in Atlanta.

"The presence of an adult and two juveniles within a denning chamber represents some of the best evidence for dinosaur parental care," Varricchio said. "The burrow likely protected the adult and young Oryctodromeus from predators and harsh environmental conditions. Burrowing behavior may have allowed other dinosaurs to survive in extreme environments such as polar regions and deserts and questions some end-Cretaceous extinction hypotheses."

hrmm. That does throw a monkey's wrench into a few survival hypotheses for mammals, da? Even so, burrowing dinos! KEWL!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Russia: What the West "Must" Understand

Russia's historical legacy means that it will continue to suffer from a combined superiority and inferiority complex. It is well aware of its past status as a superpower and imperial great power, but at the same time it knows that its economic performance is far behind that of the West in terms of per capita income, and that its institutions are not up to "civilized" Western standards.


[The West] must understand that Russia wants to be part of the West economically and culturally, but that it also has Great Power claims despite its weakness - which is precisely why President Putin has emphasized that Russia is an energy superpower. At the same time, as Eurasia cooperates more, Russia will play a major role, including in the former Soviet republics.

Read the whole OpEd piece. It's interesting. The writer tries very hard to compare modern day Russia with postWW2 Britain.


If I mention anything about Russia or Putin, my blog gets a lot more hits. More than even if I do a post on the Permian Extinction or any other mass extinction.

Very interesting.

Some People Are Stupid

They forgot to put on their powered armour first! Sheesh! Idiots!

First Gliding Lizard

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pretty Darned Tired

It's the rotation thing again. War with IBM is never fun...or done.

Additionally, Lyuda and I were up studying bio until midnight. That's when I ran back to work to scold the FastT, ahem, DS4300s about being bad. I got home at 3 AM and found Avrora awake and screaming. Lyuda was so tired and since I'm the one that gets up at night to take care of Avrora wasn't as sure what to do. A hug, a kiss, and a quick snuggle before putting her back to bed, I hit ths sack about 3:30 AM Then I was up at 6 AM and I'm now making war upon IBM again.


Russian Presidential Succession: A Reality Check

A remarkable feature of this anti-U.S. and anti-NATO rhetoric is that none of the official PR champions is really serious about the proposed counter-measures. They are perfectly well informed that the yet-to-be-deployed U.S. systems would not constitute any threat to Russia, and they know full well both that it is nearly impossible to resume production of intermediate-range missiles and that the “fifth generation” S-400 is based on pre-computer-era technologies. The aggressive statements could not even qualify as strategic bluff, as they amount partly to claims for extra resources from the increasingly strained state budget but mostly to self-positioning in the Byzantine intrigues around Putin’s fast-approaching but by no means certain departure from the Kremlin. Ivanov presumes that nothing is better for surfing over bothersome domestic problems than a towering wave of external threat, but Putin is still able to check the progress of competing “surfers” by regulating this imaginary wave.

Interesting stuff there. Putin's hand in things that is.

I still think Ivanov is a disaster waiting to happen.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Oh yeah...

I'm at work. Gotta love rotation.

Permian Ecology

This is from Dr Benton's book.

I'll add some commentary come Monday. Note: a lot of the lower tiers of the food pyramid there are filled with anapsids. Where were the diapsids?

Snowed Under

...with email. Lotsa issues with a couple computers.

Maybe a blog post later tonight.

Rotation is fun.

A Better Post on Yanoconodon

Look at Pharyngula.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Permian Extinction: BBC Edition (edtd)

Take a look. A VERY short version of what was about 40+ minutes of the original. Ward, Courtilot, and Benton all make appearances.

Odd Early Mammal

Greater Species Turnover in Northern Climates?

More species develop in warm, tropical climates or cooler, temperate areas? It turns out the longtime answer — the tropics — may be wrong.


New research suggests that is because tropical species do not die out as readily. Cooler regions have a higher turnover rate, with more species developing but also more becoming extinct.


"It would take one species in the tropics 3 to 4 million years to evolve into two distinct species, whereas at 60 degrees latitude (two-thirds of the way toward either pole), it could take as little as 1 million years," Weir said.

"In other words, there's a higher turnover of species in places like Canada, making it a hotbed of speciation, not the Amazon," said Schluter.

That, however, is balanced by a higher extinction rate in colder climates, so the tropics still have more diversity.

It also raises the question of whether a more variable climate causes more rapid evolution.

Also interesting that in some of the mass extinction books I've read that there has been a lot of hints that the tropics are not as likely to have species get wiped as had been thought. I wonder if it was a case of thinking 'where we come from is best' (and then its flip side later) that colored the old beliefs.

Mike Griffin on NASA's Future

Take a read. Tis Interesting. Here's AvWeek's article about the above opinion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tres kewl

A Future Continental Arrangement

There's a very lazy attempt at some of what I was thinking when I posted that thread. Someday, Lyuda is supposed to help out with her superior artistic abilities, but that is going to be a long time coming. She's snowed under by her classes.

Any thoughts or comments?

More Things

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
--From Hamlet

There a poster in that alternate evolution mailing list that I really think I need to stop replying to. When that individual has posted to SHWI, others have warned me that his opinions are unswayable and interaction is most likely pointless. This is a case of me making a public acknowledgement of 'damnit, ok, you guys are more than right'. mea culpa.

NASA to Congress: Stop Frakin with our budget

NASA will need an additional $350 million in fiscal 2009 and $400 million FY '10 to reverse the effect of the FY '07 continuing budget resolution and put the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) back on schedule to debut in 2014, Administrator Michael Griffin told House appropriators March 13.

The continuing resolution, which freezes NASA's budget at FY '06 levels, amounts to a $545 million cut to the agency's topline compared to its FY '07 request. Griffin told lawmakers earlier this month that the appropriations bill further directs a reduction to human spaceflight of $677 million, $577 million of which is coming out of exploration - primarily the Orion and Ares Crew Launch Vehicle. This will push the Orion's manned debut back an estimated six months to 2015 (DAILY, March 2).

Restoring the funding later to regain schedule will cost more than the original amount cut, Griffin said, because "money added later always costs more than money taken away now." [emphasis added - wb] By March 15 NASA is due to deliver to Congress its FY '07 operating plan, which will detail precisely how it proposes to deal with the funding cut. The slip to 2015 would mean NASA will miss President Bush's originally announced deadline of 2014 for the Orion's manned debut.

Pinching now, almost always adds much pain later, imnsho based on my experiences in tech related enterprises.

This is going too far...

The Berkeley City Council was in the spotlight Tuesday night as it grappled with whether to become the first U.S. government entity to support the prosecution of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials for war crimes.

If the council approves the resolution, Berkeley would become a co-plaintiff if Germany files a criminal complaint against Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other U.S. officials for their alleged involvement with torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Berkeley has a long history of protesting U.S. policy, but the city manager recommended that the council stop short of participating in the prosecution of Rumsfeld and his associates.

That is going too far. A city in the US prosecuting federal officials for actions outside the juristiction of the city? frakkin berkeley.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Screws Suck

At least ones that get in tires.

Frakkin bastids that dropped them where my wife's car can find them.


Profound Comment on the KT Extinction

Darren Naish made it in reply to a few of readers' comments:

One more thing on Cretaceous sebecosuchians: the existence of all of these moderately big terrestrial reptiles means we have to revise that old sound-bite about 'no land animals above [insert size] survived the end-Cretaceous event'. We don't have a complete record of sebecosuchians across the K-Pg boudary of course, but the Cretaceous, Palaeocene and Eocene forms that we have indicate that the forms that survived across the boundary were of the same size: viz, pretty big for a terrestrial non-dinosaur, 2-3 m long. Mostly ignored to my knowledge, this fact might mean something important for the metabolic status of dinosaurs, as some commenters here have already noted.

Think about that for a minute. That's damned important. IF the sebecosuchians were ectotherms, this makes complete sense. If there were prolonged periods were food was not available, then being cold blooded is immensely helpful. It also says that the dinos were not cold blooded and the terrestrial forms (ie not the birds) were not able to move around enough to get enough food. One has to wonder why the mammals survived. Could they simply hibernate?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Mesozoic Ecology Gets a Little More Colorful

But what if there were big terrestrial predatory crocodilians during the Mesozoic? Surely such animals would have been interacting with predatory dinosaurs: living in the same places, preying on the same prey, and scavenging from the same carcasses.


The remains we have of such sebecosuchians as Baurusuchus shows that they were large animals, with body lengths exceeding 3.5 m and approaching 4 m in Stratiotosuchus. If the idea of a 4-m-long terrestrial predatory Cretaceous non-dinosaurian reptile doesn't grab your imagination, shame on you. It is veeery tempting to wonder whether, and how, sebecosuchians and theropods interacted: surely they must have. I wanted to mention this idea in my 2001 review article on crocodilians, but my reviewer urged me to remove it. Candeiro et al. (2006) however, have hinted at this idea, noting that, in some Late Cretaceous South American faunas, terrestrial crocodilians 'had a more important ecological role to play as the main carnivorous group ... than did theropods' (p. 937).

This is from Darren Naish's post.

The question is, of course, what was the earliest terrestrial gigantoform croc for the Mesozoic? Were they strictly a Maastrichtian-only phenomenon? Is this a sign of the proposed dinosaur decline 10 million years before the KT Boundary? Or was something like this around the whole time? It'd be very interesting if there was a Jurassic example!

Some Space Weapon Myths

James Oberg talks about some space weaponization myths. Read. with salt, of course, but its still rather useful. Note: I am not against the weaponization of space. I think it's inevitable and to think otherwise is wishful thinking. Just like the Nonproliferation treaty, a space weapons teraty would merely stall the end result.

Time Change

Arizona has (had?) the right idea abotut his. This is frackin ridiculous.

Friday, March 09, 2007

DARPA and Orbital Sats

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency achieved a milestone yesterday with the successful launch of two Orbital Express demonstration vehicles aboard an Atlas 5 rocket. The Orbital Express program is a far-out idea even for Darpa. The idea is to make space a less expensive venue in which to operate so the United States can continue its technical superiority there. That doesn't sound revolutionary, but what is revolutionary is that Darpa wants to do this by building service vehicles that would refuel, upgrade, and eventually build satellites in space. Orbital Express is a first step toward that goal by enabling on-orbit upgrades to satellite capabilities, and space vehicle refueling, which would lessen the number of times the United States has to launch a rocket into space, a job that costs in the 10s of millions of dollars.

Just a quickie as I run out the door.

NASA Vouches for Dwave Quantum Computer

That's...interesting. I'll have to go over and see what the skeptics have to say. This one ain't over yet!

Man I Wanna Genengineer One of These

A giant salamander the size of a crocodile. It'd be really kewl! It might make for a great addition for the Greenland Terraforming Project. ;)

FCS NLOS-C Makes Good Progress

There's a post over at Ares about the NLOS-C platform for the FCS program.

What I find intersting is the timeframes involved. From 6 months after the contract was signed, the first proof of concept vehicle was delivered and less than six years after that the full production vehicle will be delivered for testing as well. For defense contracting, that's very fast. It'll be a couple years after that for fielding, but even so. It's impressive.

One of the reasons that its so is that the NLOS-C takes advantage of existing technologies. Yes, some important ones are being developed - and some are problematic to be sure - but its considerably different than is normally done. More often than not, the sky is promised when a competition is started and then it falls on the buyer when too many tech related risks take longer than expected to develop.

One of the suggested reforms that has come up is that the Pentagon pay for a string of constant development of components that can be assembled into a system because of following standards based interfaces. They need not be civvie based standards either. Now this does have an increased tech development overhead, making DARPA and the techies eat a larger portion of the pie. Yet, if done properly, this would massively reduce the risk involved with deploying new weapon systems. It becomes a case of systems integation which has risk, but not developmental risk!

Diatribe over, fun speculation now. What would I do with the NLOS-C? The two that I would think of are 1) fire on the move capabilities 2) improved armor on the chassis without compromising weight, and 3) LOS hit to kill capabilities. Now that latter would only be advisable if the cannon was actually mounted on something that other than the chassis they have it on or at least a much uparmored one, otherwise the temptation to use these guys as tanks would be too great. The idea that every armored fighting vehicle with a large calibre gun could be either artillery or a tank is an exciting one. Imagine a brigade able to fire on the same massed enemy force all at once: 120+ guns all able to be brought to bare. Very frightening if you're on the other end of it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Seen via Pharyngula.

Mini Rant

Can we skip this 'informal empire' bs? There is a word for it. It's been around for a long time. It's 'hegemony' or hegemon. If you think that you're readers are unfamiliar with the word, please define it and give examples and then frakin use it.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Saurischians Had Small Genomes?

A study of dinosaur genomes hints that the early evolution of a smaller genome might have been necessary for later vertebrates to take to the skies.

Birds have long been known to have much smaller genomes than mammals and reptiles living on the ground. And a small genome has been linked to both small cell size and high metabolic rate: the lower volume-to-surface ratio of small cells, which don't have much DNA to pack inside, can allow for faster transport of nutrients and signals across the membrane. Thus, some suggest that the energetic demands of flight require birds to have a 'light' genome.

But which came first: flying birds or the smaller genome?

To find out, Chris Organ from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues estimated the genome sizes of the dinosaur ancestors of birds.

erm. ok...

Alternate Evolution Group

The quality is so-so. There are a few posters that are quite good. There are a few that are not. Wish it were a usenet group instead...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Holy Shit - Echo

In DC, a commentor with a history of expertise on Russia is shot by two men in his driveway days after he makes comments about his opinion on TV that Putin was involved with the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

In frakin Washington, DC!

If this doesn't turn out to be a coincidence, I think we have Putin's position uber clarified.

Holy shit, with a blink tag, as I echo the commentor over at AFoE says.

China's First Space Probe

China will launch its first lunar probe this year, and expects to be able to land a man on the Moon within 15 years, a senior space official has confirmed.

The Chang'e-1 lunar probe will be launched later this year aboard a Long March 3A rocket.

The probe will provide 3D images of the Moon, survey the lunar landscape, study lunar microwaves and estimate the thickness of the Moon's soil.

Good luck to them. Race, race, race!

Now THAT'S a Tongue!

Go read the article. Pretty cool. You have to wonder, if salamanders are not effected by that nasty fungus like frogs are is this the basal critter for their ecological replacement?

Wonderful Gifts

Last week was my daughter's second birthday. we ended up spoiling her rotten with gifts and stuff she loves. Because we were getting over the nastiness, we ended up having her party at her daycare the next day. She had a good time there too. Lyuda came from classes and I came from work to be there.

Last night was almost a second birthday for her. Gifst came from two very good pairs of friends without even expecting it. One was Suzanne (aka suziwon) and her husband Greg. The other was Vicki and her husband, Jeromy. I was their best man ages ago when they tied the knot.

Thank you both. Avrora loved everything she recieved. Dinosaurs and stickers, books and more. She loved it all. The fact that you guys remembered and cared enough to send it is really appreciated this.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Another Dead Russian Journalist

A military correspondent for Russia's top business daily died after falling from a fifth-story window, and some media speculated Monday that he might have been killed for his critical reporting.

Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, died Friday in the fall from a window in the stairwell of his apartment building in Moscow, according to officials. His body was found by neighbors shortly afterward.

Safronov, who had served as a colonel in the Russian Space Forces before joining Kommersant in 1997, frequently angered authorities with his critical reporting and was repeatedly questioned by the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency, which suspected him of divulging state secrets. No charges were ever filed because Safronov was able to prove his reports were based on open sources, Kommersant said.

Journalism is obviously not a profession recommended for those that wish to live long in Russia. Esp if you are critical of the government.

A Cosmonaut's Commentary

Dwayne Day does a bang up job of bringing to our attention the interview of the Pavel Vinogradov in the Russian space periodical, Novosti Kosmonavtiki. Dwayne gives a very thorough background for those that haven't been following the status of the Russian Space Program for the last decade. I think you will find it as interesting as I did.

It will also help kaboosh anymore of those 'Russia is overtaking the US' comments about space stuff. Right now, wrt that, it was much like how the Brits used to state about the Americans and VSTOL fighter tech: to stay ahead, one must only sit tight.

Russia "Plans" Development of Far East

Moscow may spend trillions of rubles to develop the Russian Far East. While visiting Vladivostok on March 1, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said it was too early to announce more concrete estimates, but he pledged to monitor the disbursement of federal funds. Fradkov also stated that the government had made no changes in its Eastern Siberia-Pacific pipeline plans. He said that some 500 kilometers of the pipeline had been already built and the destination point, Primor, has not changed (Interfax, March 1).

Although details of the government investments remained somewhat sketchy, officials indicated that disbursement of state money could start sooner rather than later.

Earlier this year, the Kremlin pledged to spend nearly $4 billion in government funding to boost the economic growth of the region. During a visit to Vladivostok on January 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested spending 100 billion rubles ($3.8 billion) to build a resort area on Russky Island, off the Pacific port of Vladivostok, to host the APEC 2012 summit. Putin issued a special decree to establish a state commission on the socioeconomic development of Russia's Far East, headed by Prime Minister Fradkov.

During his trip to Vladivostok, the administrative center of the Primor region, Fradkov said the new commission should convene before the end of March. He listed energy, transport, shipbuilding, fishery and port projects as priority programs (Interfax, March 1).

If you accept the thesis of Siberian Curse this is going to be a economic sinkhole.

(I am unconvinced, btw, as to that thesis. Carlos had a few choice words on the subject to the negative and while I don't take everything to heart about what he says, he's more right than wrong). Besides, global warming ought to ahve some interesting impacts here. My favourite part of the article is...

Along with Russia's ambitious plans to develop the Far East, an old project to build an undersea tunnel to link Sakhalin Island and the mainland has resurfaced. Russia's transportation ministry and Sakhalin are considering a plan to build a $3 billion tunnel to accommodate both a motorway and a rail link, the Sakhalin administration said in a statement. The project would be funded from the federal budget as part of an effort to improve communications between Sakhalin and the rest of Russia. The current Vanino-Kholmsk ferry link has become obsolete (Interfax, February 28).

Now that is going to be such a safe and well designed project! How deaths in construction do you think there will be?

New Ceratopsian

Dr. Michael J. Ryan with the holotype skull of the new horned dinosaur, Albertaceratops nesmoi at an unidentified location. Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, published his discovery in the March 2007 Journal of Paleontology.

Fifth Generation Internet?!

Go take a look at what Bill McColl has written. He's got a bee in his bonnet about real-time HPC. Trutthfully, while I think what he calls real-time HPC isn't there yet. I think we need another generation or three developmental cycles before its good and ready. ALL the HPC architectures that I have been briefed on have nontrivial issues with data movement to and from the machine itself. If you want real-time, you need low latency, uber double plus fat pipes to EACH node. If you say the words cluster and beowulf, I am going to have had my day made. I need a very good laugh.

Frex, the climate guys gave us a presentation, a little dated now but not a bad data point, where they wanted a 500 Petaflop (sustained with their code) machine for their ideal. We're working on single petaflop machines with the DARPA HPCS program. To do real-time, multipermutation climate sims seems out of reach for quite a while.

Plus, many of you will take issue with the 'generations' that Mr McColl has for the Internet. I am a relative youngin compared to some of you online and even I predate the 'internet generation 1'.

At any rate, what do my readers think?

China Gearing up for Next Space Shot

China is aiming for its third manned orbital flight next year with two astronauts making spacewalks, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.

The Beijing Morning Post quoted Huang Chunping, chief consultant for China's manned launching vehicle system, as saying the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft would be ready this year, but work was still being done on the suits the astronauts would wear on the space walk.

"The main reason for the delay is that we wanted to be able to carry out the space walk completely dependent on our self-ability," Huang said.

And, depressingly, the US space effort is getting hampered by politics. Again.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Megamonsoons

The megamonsoon was something that I first encountered in the book I just finished reading. The megamonsoon seems to have come about as an explanation for the transition in observed river systems in the early Mesozoic. The basic concept was that there was a massive monsoonal cycle that encompassed large areas. I'm unsure based on what I've read whether or not the intent for calling it the 'megamonsoon' is because the effect was so wide spread - seems to have been at one time or another all to have had a major effect all over the coastal regions of Pangea - or if it was due to the nature of the monsoon's intensity.

To be honest, my mind keeps conjuring up massive seasonal innundations. Stuff that makes the cloud forests of the Andes seem like a dry place or Bangladesh's wetness not that bad. It would make for an interesting reason why the river systems changed so much from the Permian to the Triassic in many locales. In fact, it would also make sense that the areas seem somewhat sparse vegetation-wise because deeper root structures, iirc, didn't evolve until afterwards. Fraser in the book suggested that the uplands were rather different than the lowlands in the Triassic, perhaps even very well vegetated.

One of the interesting things about the Placerias Quarry is that it seems to be something of an anomaly. There were a lot of the dicynodont there and in stone types that seem to be rather atypical for the Triassic. Placerias isn't common in a lot of locales except as a single bone or so that seems to have been washed in (re most of the petrified forest). Some relatively recent work on the quarry suggests that it wasn't the classically described swamps, butan environment that was frequently drenched and then dried out. That becomes more consistant with the other locales of the same chronology. At least as I understand it.

If the dicynodonts were uplands critters that would be...interesting...especially with respect to Ward's Low O2 hypotheses. An uplands therapsid when sealevel was supposed to have the O2 content of 10k feet. huh. Even more interesting. it makes me wonder if part of the reason that the great Triassic experiment in forms had little to do with oxygen and more to do with the fact that the favourable habitat was more fractured. That fracturing here might be from PT Event and then the strengthening of the megamonsoon such that anything more than growth between the massive season flooding seems difficult. Then again...the petrified forest. hrm.

At any rate, I'm almost out of time here and the purpose of thinking about this megamonsoon was not the Ward atmospheric hypoxia stuff, but rather that it would seem to me - since there are some papers out there that suggest that the megamonsoon started prior the Permian even but reached its peakin the Triassic - that the Great Dying would definitely be effected by this. Consider that if you get your precipitation all in one go and its been hydrogen sulfide tainted...erm. bad stuff.

I think I need to figure out how to dedicate some time to model this. I'd love to collaborate on that, but the star in that field for the PT boundary sims was rather pissed at me last I checked due to a misunderstanding. I don't want to have to replicate the whole basic data, but...ugh. well. IDK. We'll see. I need to pull apart the coupler in CCSM anyways for something...and since the woman that wrote the puppy happens to ahve an office directly across from mine...BWAHAHAHAHA. ahem.

Ah, but were any of them Al Sharpton's ancestors?

Democrat Barack Obama, who would be the first black president if elected, also has white ancestors who owned slaves, according to a genealogical researcher.

The researcher, William Addams Reitwiesner, says the discovery is part of his first draft of research into Obama's roots. Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother was a white woman from Kansas.

Oh please don't tell me that the big issue of the 2008 presidential election is whether or not someone's ancestor's owned slaves! There are far more pertitent issues that need to be adressed!

Glad I'm not there anymore!

The U.S. Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will conduct a hearing today in Washington, D.C., where officials with the U.S. Army Strategic Defense Command (SDMC) will have to justify why $13.6 million in federal funding should be cut at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range.

The reduced funding is part of the proposed 2008 fiscal year budget President Bush has submitted to Congress. Bush's request is to cut HELSTF funding for research, development, testing and evaluation from $16.4 million this year to $2.8 million for the federal government's 2008 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

It's been almost six years since I left...amazing how fast time has flown.


If we nominate Gingrich, I'm defecting. Or going independant. frack.

This Can't Be Good

Despite rocky political relations, Japan needs Russia for gas and oil imports as the energy-hungry Asian power tries to ease its dependence on the volatile Middle East, analysts say.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, on a visit to Tokyo that wrapped up late Wednesday, pledged his country would be a "stable" partner.

His visit came after the Kremlin unnerved Japanese and Western investors by taking majority control of the massive Sakhalin-2 gas project, in which two Japanese companies are shareholders.

"Of course you have to be cautious with Russia, but compared with Iran, Russia is far safer as an energy supplier," said Koji Nakatsu, a professor at Osaka University of Commerce who wrote a book on the Kremlin's energy policy.

I guess the gas wars and ABM threats in eastern europe haven't been paid much attention to. Or the development of Saklin or...ah well. Whither Japan?