Friday, July 30, 2010

X-37 Part of a SinoAmerican MilSpace Race?

It was a space launch to change the world. On January 11, 2007, a solid-fuelled rocket lifted off from Xichang Space Center in central China, a non-explosive ‘kill vehicle’ fitted to its tip. Five hundred miles above the earth, the now-separated kill vehicle struck an 8-year-old Chinese weather satellite, pulverizing it and leaving behind a cloud of some 1,000 large pieces of debris.

The unannounced Chinese launch was the first full-scale test of an anti-satellite system since the US Air Force's 1985 demonstration of a satellite-killing missile launched by an F-15 fighter. And the global response to China’s move was swift and vociferous, with Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States condemning the intercept.

‘China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area,’ said Gordon Johndroe from the US National Security Council at the time.

A year later, the launch reverberated in the most important US election in a generation, when presidential candidate Barack Obama made opposition to such weaponry part of his platform. ‘Obama opposes the stationing of weapons in space and the development of anti-satellite weapons,’ his campaign asserted. ‘He believes the United States must show leadership by engaging other nations in discussions of how best to stop the slow slide towards a new battlefield.’

Yet just two years into the Obama presidency and it’s clear that these noble sentiments aren’t being matched by US deeds.

On April 22, the US Air Force launched into orbit the world's most sophisticated robotic spacecraft, one whose design counters China's anti-satellite capability—and goes a step further. The X-37B, built by Boeing, could also be used to spy on and even disable other nations’ satellites, all without them necessarily knowing that it’s even happening. With the X-37, the US raised the stakes in the phase of the space race that China began three years ago.

hmmm. I wish I had more time, but we've blown our power substation twice now. ...and we're only working with megawatts here. What will happen when we get our 1.1 gigawatts in?! (ref! ref!)

PZ Tel: A G Dwarf with a Brown Dwarf Directly Imaged

Astronomers have imaged a very young brown dwarf, or failed star, in a tight orbit around a young nearby sun-like star.

An international team led by University of Hawaii astronomers Beth Biller and Michael Liu with help from University of Arizona astronomer Laird Close and UA graduate students Eric Nielsen, Jared Males and Andy Skemer made the rare find using the Near-Infrared Coronagraphic Imager, or NICI, on the international 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile.

What makes this discovery special is the proximity between the 36 Jupiter-mass brown dwarf companion, dubbed PZ Tel B, and its primary star, named PZ Tel A. They are separated by only 18 Astronomical Units, or AUs, similar to the distance between Uranus and the sun.

Most young brown dwarf and planetary companions found by direct imaging are at orbital separations greater than 50 AUs – larger than the orbit of Pluto, at 40 AUs.

In addition to its small separation, in just the past year the researchers observed PZ Tel B moving quickly outward from its parent star.

An older image, taken seven years ago and reanalyzed by Laird Close, a professor at UA's Steward Observatory and the department of astronomy, showed PZ Tel B was obscured by the glare from its parent star as recently as 2003, indicating its orbit is more elliptical than circular.

"Because PZ Tel A is a rare star being both close and very young, it had been imaged several times in the past," said Close. "So we were quite surprised to see a new companion around what was thought to be a single star."

Lead author and UA graduate Beth Biller said, "PZ Tel B travels on a particularly eccentric orbit – in the last 10 years, we have literally watched it careen through its inner solar system. This can best be explained by a highly eccentric, or oval-shaped, orbit."

The host star, PZ Tel A, is a younger version of the sun, having a similar mass but a very young age of only 12 million years (about 400 times younger than the sun). In fact, the PZ Tel system is young enough to still possess significant amounts of cold circumstellar dust, which may have been sculpted by the gravitational interaction with the young brown dwarf companion.

This makes the PZ Tel system an important laboratory for studying the early stages of solar system formation. With an estimated mass of 36 times that of Jupiter, PZ Tel B's orbital motion has significant implications for what type of planets can form (and whether planets can form at all) in the PZ Tel system.


The discovery of PZ Tel B is described in a paper being published by Astrophysical Journal Letters.

no time.

More Questions Raised Over Younger Dryas Impact

Some scientists have thought that the Earth's Ice Age conditions 12,900 years ago were triggered by a meteor or comet. But a recent study suggests that the evidence pointing to the ancient impact is nothing more than fungus and other matter.

According to the impact theory, the event could have caused the extinction of North American mammoths and other species, and killed the early human hunters that occupied North America at the time. Yet the new study concludes that sediment samples taken as evidence of the impact are nothing more than common fossilized balls of fungus and fecal matter - not exactly signs of a space rock crashing into Earth.

Further, the samples -- spherules of carbon used by impact proponents to justify a meteor -- appear thousands of years before and after the Ice Age in sediment records, suggesting they have nothing to do with the impact, scientists said in a statement.

"People get very excited about the idea of a major impact causing a catastrophic fire and the abrupt climate change in that period, but there just isn't the evidence to support it," said lead researcher Andrew C. Scott at the University of London in the UK.

Still, proponents of an impact theory are not backing down.

According to theory, a comet impact or airburst in the atmosphere produced an enormous fire that raged from California to Europe. Melting volumes of ice in the North American ice sheet, the fire sent cold water surging into the world's oceans and knocked off balance the circulation of currents responsible for global heat transport.

Known as the Younger Dryas period or "Big Freeze," the 1,300 years of glacial conditions that followed is well documented in ocean cores and ancient soil samples.

Organic matter normal, not melted

Collected from the same locations in California and Arizona used by proponents of the meteor theory, sediment cores dating back to the inception of the cooling era were compared to samples of modern soil that had been subjected to wildfires. They were also largely identified as compact balls and tendrils of fungal matter known as sclerotia, which are produced by fungi naturally during challenging conditions—hardly unique byproducts of an impact-ignited fire.

Neither the charcoal nor the fossilized balls had been exposed to heat above 450 degrees Celsius (842 F), researchers said in a statement. Further, radiocarbon dating of the spherules, which were sampled from many layers of the sediment cores, found that their ages ranged from 16,821 to 11,467 years old: too wide a berth to count as meaningful trigger for the Younger Dryas period.

Experimental charring tests have shown that this organic matter was subjected to, at most, regular low intensity fire, researcher Nicholas Pinter of Southern Illinois University told Also, such globules would have been destroyed in any mega fire described by impact proponents, Pinter added.

"After the carbon spherules, only one credible piece of supporting evidence remains -- the so-called nanodiamonds purportedly found in 12,900-year-old deposits," Pinter said. "Impact proponents are putting all of their remaining eggs in the nanodiamond basket."

hmmm. Nanodiamonds? hmmm.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Night of the Living Wonks (had to be made for Noel)

here are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies.

For our purposes, a zombie is defined as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human flesh -- the kind of ghoul that first appeared in George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African and Haitian voodoo rituals). Because they can spread across borders and threaten states and civilizations, these zombies should command the attention of scholars and policymakers.

here are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies.

For our purposes, a zombie is defined as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human flesh -- the kind of ghoul that first appeared in George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African and Haitian voodoo rituals). Because they can spread across borders and threaten states and civilizations, these zombies should command the attention of scholars and policymakers.

That had to be for Noel...just had to be.


Part of the New Bay Bridge Tower Goes Up

I missed putting this up yesterday because I was at work in the machine room pretty much for 17 hours straight. That was after being at work for 12 hours the day before. Today? Probably 9. I hope. My wife is pretty pissed as it is...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

USGS Publishes Updated Geological Divisions

Patchy Week

We're doing a massive power upgrade at work. Network connectivity will be almost zilch and we're running around like maniacs: adding a multi megawatt substation for the landing of a new supercomputer on the floor in a few days is a nontrivial thing.

If its possible I'll write some, but it may be on Thursday or Friday.

Maybe earlier, but I doubt it.

PS. My son has started walking.

Friday, July 23, 2010


"What happens is Earth is 70% water," Liebesman said in the press conference. "The aliens in our movie use water for many different things so it's for those natural resources."

Why, yes, my desk is shaped that way due to excessive expectations of the media. Why do you ask?

Every time Hollywood does a SF movie, bab asimov cries.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sasselov: Hundreds of Earth Like Planets?

The drake equation gets some parameters better filled in?

A Prank From Years Ago

When I started working at the supercomputing center, I encountered the above. When a conference came and given my awful history with seaborg (ie 'hugging it' and whatnot), I decided that I needed to get some vengeance.

The funny part was...some time after, the Blue Gene cabinet config was announced:

Coincidence? Or Not?

Antillothrix bernensis Fossil Found via Scuba Diving

Scientists have examined fossilised remains of a tiny, extinct monkey that were retrieved from an underwater cave in the Dominican Republic.

The researchers believe the fossil to be around 3,000 years old, but say the species itself could be very ancient.

This reveals clues about the origin of primates in the region.

It also suggests that many ecologically valuable treasures could be discovered by the unusual field of "underwater palaeontology".

Dr Alfred Rosenberger from Brooklyn College in New York, US, led the examination of the creature's bones, the results of which were published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.


Dr Rosenberger said the monkey - only the second specimen of the species Antillothrix bernensis ever found - probably measured about 30cm (12in) from head to toe.

The divers packed the fragile little skeleton into tupperware boxes

But the shape of the legs came as a surprise.

"Its femur or thigh bone was very thick. So it had sort of stout legs, which is something we didn't expect.

"We don't really have any living examples of New World monkeys that have stout legs like that."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It's now possible to reconstruct what this mysterious animal looked like and how it evolved”

End Quote Dr Sam Turvey Zoological Society of London

Dr Rosenberger thinks the creature went extinct relatively recently.

He said that it may have behaved similarly to a koala - clinging to the trunks of trees, rather than leaping from branch to branch.

"That's a very rough analogy, he said.

"But there's something very interesting about the ecological niche it inhabited."

The fossil also adds to evidence that there were several lineages of primates in the Caribbean, instead of one ancestor that moved into the region millions of years ago from which all modern species evolved.

Dr Rosenberger said it was likely that several species travelled "over the water" to inhabit the island of Hispaniola.

"And even though these particular bones might be relatively young, we're pretty sure that the arrival of these animals occurred well over 10 million years ago.

"That's an exciting part of the story - if you compare the dental remains of our monkey to other fossils that we know of, we see strong similarities with Patagonian fossils that are around 15 million years old."

no time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WISE Completes a Sky Map

The recently completed WISE survey also observed 100,000 asteroids in our solar system, many of which had never been seen before. 90 of the newly discovered asteroids are near-earth objects, whose orbits cross our own, making them potentially dangerous but also potential targets for future mission.

That's in the first pass. Looking for changes is crucial for new asteroids.

Most Hits EV-AH

Yesterday, Metafilter linked to my dicynodont and gorgonopsid posts. The most hits in a day I've had ever before was about 1300. Yesterday, it leapt past 3,800.

Now if only we'd get that hit rate for Team Phoenicia!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Boeing Building "Commercial" Space Capsule

Boeing will use the commercial crew capsule it is developing under an agreement with NASA to provide transportation to the private space station that Bigelow Aerospace intends to have in service by 2015, the two companies announced here July 19.

Dubbed the CST-100, for Crew Transportation System, the partially reusable capsule will be able to fly unmanned or with as many as seven astronauts to the Bigelow Aerospace Orbital Space Complex. The commercial facility is to be built with inflatable modules and have a volume about two-thirds that of the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing is maturing its design for the vehicle under an $18 million Commercial Crew Development Space Act agreement with NASA.

Brewster Shaw, a former astronaut who leads Boeing’s space exploration efforts, says the ultimate goal is for the CST-100 to be the seed from which Boeing will grow a space business analogous to its vast commercial airplanes segment.

While Boeing says it would be difficult to develop the CST-100 without NASA’s commitment to go forward with a commercial crew vehicle, company officials also say servicing the ISS alone would probably not support the business case for the vehicle.

Bigelow, for its part, needs a provider of reliable, safe transportation to its facility in low Earth orbit, but it also wants the station to be capable of being serviced by unmanned vehicles such as Europe’s ATV, Japan’s HTV and Russia’s Progress, as well as crewed vehicles such as the commercial Dragon being developed by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) or Russia’s venerable Soyuz spacecraft.

Bigelow anticipates a customer base among countries without a current manned space program and, eventually, corporations. The focus has been on nation states so far, founder Bob Bigelow indicated.

The CST-100 vehicle, which would be larger than an Apollo but smaller than NASA’s Orion, is being designed to be flown on any of three launch vehicles: Delta IV, Atlas V and Falcon 9. An abort system would involve a “pusher” system, rather than the traditional arrangement of small rockets that pull a manned vehicle away from a launcher in distress, Boeing officials say. The advantage is that if the abort system is not used, the fuel would then be available for maneuvering in orbit.

The CST-100 could stay on orbit as long as seven months. After returning to Earth via ballistic re-entry while protected by an ablative shield, it would be slowed by parachutes to settle on dry land. The capsule could then receive a new heat shield and be refurbished to fly again. The CST-100 is being designed for a life of up to 10 missions for each vehicle.

I wonder how this compares to the Dragon capsule from SpaceX.

China Uses More Energy Than the US?

China on Tuesday rejected an assessment from the International Energy Agency that it had surpassed the United States to become the world's top energy consumer, calling the data "unreliable".

The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal cited a top IEA official as saying the Asian giant had taken over the top spot in 2009, earlier than expected.

According to the IEA, China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent of energy in 2009, from sources that included coal, nuclear power, natural gas and hydroelectric power -- about four percent more than the United States.

But an official with China's National Energy Administration told reporters the report was flawed.

"The IEA's data on China's energy use is unreliable," the official, Zhou Xian, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

The Financial Times quoted IEA chief economist Fatih Birol as saying: "In the year 2000, the US consumed twice as much energy as China; now, China consumes more than the US."

The United States still uses far more energy than China on a per capita basis, but China is less energy-efficient, the report said.

The IEA, the energy strategy branch of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the data was still preliminary but that the trend was clear, the newspaper reported.

China has embarked in recent years on an aggressive campaign to secure overseas energy supplies and satisfy sky-rocketing demand fuelled by its fast-expanding economy and citizens' increasing consumerism.

Late last year, Beijing announced ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit that it would embark on a major energy efficiency drive to curb growth in its world-leading greenhouse gas emissions.

It has set a goal of generating 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources -- mainly wind and water -- by 2020.

no time. However, Global Warming is Inevitable.

Laser Used in a Naval Enviroment to Down UAV


I've had thousands and thousands of hits on the Dicynodont link to the right. For some reason, this looks like an attempted DDOS. There's no way that that many people all want to look at it. It's not working as a DDOS, but...


Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Holocene Mass Extinction Disaster Taxon IDed

Jellyfish moved into the oceans off the coast of southwest Africa when the sardine population crashed. Now another small fish is living in the oxygen-depleted zone part-time and turning the once ecologically dead-end jellyfish into dinner, according to an international team of scientists.

"Originally there were sardines in the area but over fishing caused the sardine population to collapse in the 1960s and 1970s," said Victoria A. Braithwaite, professor of fisheries and biology, Penn State. "The sardines never recovered and jellyfish became a huge and serious problem, eating what the sardines had eaten."

Jellyfish are considered a dead end food source because, while they eat lots of small fish and other sea creatures, they have few predators. However, the research team found that the bearded goby, Sufflogobius bibarbatus, a 4-to-6-inch long, 1.5 inch-wide fish, eats jellyfish. Larger fish like hake and mackerel, sea mammals like sea lions and porpoises, and sea birds, like gannets and gulls, eat gobies, putting jellyfish back into the food cycle.

"We don't know if they are eating dead jellyfish from the bottom, or if they are coming up to oxygen-filled layers to eat jellyfish, but they are eating jellyfish," said Braithwaite.

Even stranger than a jellyfish diet is the gobies' use of the dead zone in the area. One reason there were so many sardines and now so many jellyfish is a large area of up-welling water off the southwest coast of Africa from Namibia to South Africa. This deep cold water brings with it large amounts of nutrients. When plankton voraciously eat the nutrients, their populations increase massively. Excess nutrients and dead plankton then fall to the ocean floor.

"A horrible toxic sludge forms, and very few things can live in it except for some bacteria and nematodes," said Braithwaite. "Somehow the gobies can withstand the toxic environment, but we don't know exactly how they are doing it."

Remarkably, the gobies cope without oxygen for hours at a time while they rest on the muddy seabed but remain alert.

"When we touch them with a rod, they show rapid escape responses," said Braithwaite.

Gobies can stay in the anoxic or oxygen-depleted area for at least 10 to 12 hours at a time. The researchers suggest they may be able to remain there even longer. The mud is not just lacking oxygen, but the bacteria that live there use sulfur for energy and produce high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas. The researchers report the results of their study in today's (July) 16 issue of Science.

"Normally, other animals cope with anoxia by anaerobic respiration, which causes a build up in lactate," said Braithwaite. "But something else is going on in these gobies as the lactate build up declines after an hour or so without oxygen. Our next step is to look to see what they are doing to cope with anoxia."


Nimbadon lavarackorum Skull Photos

Thursday, July 15, 2010

HD 209458b Has a Comet Tail

In the case of HD 209458b, during transits some of the star’s light passes through the planet’s escaping, 2,000-degree-Fahrenheit atmosphere, allowing scientists to tell what it is made of and how fast it is being lost to space.

"We found gas escaping at high velocities, with a large amount of this gas flowing toward us at 22,000 miles per hour," said astronomer Jeffrey Linsky of the University of Colorado in Boulder, leader of the COS study. "This large gas flow is likely gas swept up by the stellar wind to form the comet-like tail trailing the planet."

The escaping planetary gases absorbed starlight at wavelengths characteristic of heavier elements like carbon and silicon, suggesting that the star’s intense heat is driving circulation deep in HD 209458b’s atmosphere, dredging up material that would otherwise remain far beneath lighter elements like hydrogen.

Even though its atmosphere is constantly streaming away into space, HD 209458b won’t be disappearing anytime soon. At the measured rate of loss, the planet would last about a trillion years, far longer than the lifetime of its host star.

Something that needs to be added to hard SF settings: evaporating hot jupiters!

Nimbadon lavarackorum mass dying

More than 20 marsupials, some still suckling newborns, plunged to their deaths 15 million years ago through a vertical cave entrance obscured by vegetation, new fossil evidence suggests.

Researchers discovered the remains along a cave floor [image] in Australia, revealing nearly the complete life cycle of this extinct wombat-like marsupial.

In addition to well-preserved fossils of Nimbadon lavarackorum, the team also found the remains of galloping kangaroos, primitive bandicoots, a fox-sized thylacine and forest bats. The animals either fell to their deaths or survived the fall before being entombed and unable to escape, the evidence revealed.

Revealing skulls

By comparing the skulls of 26 different Nimbadon individuals that died in the cave at varying stages of life, the researchers found the wild baby animals developed in much the same way as marsupials today, probably being born after only a month's gestation and crawling to the mother's pouch to complete their early development.

The skulls also suggested early in life, there was an emphasis on the development of bones at the front of the face, to help the baby suckle from its mother. As the marsupial grew older and it started eating leaves, the rest of the skull developed and mushroomed in size as a result of a series of bony chambers around the brain.

Even so, the team found its brain was pretty small and stopped growing relatively early in life.

"We think it needed a large surface area of skull to provide attachments for all the muscle power it required to chew large quantities of leaves, so its skull features empty areas, or sinus cavities," said study team member Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. "Roughly translated, this may be the first demonstration of how a growing mammal 'pays' for the need to eat more greens - by becoming an 'airhead.'"

Mob behavior?

"The abundance of Nimbadon fossils also suggests that they travelled in family groups or perhaps even larger gatherings," Archer said today. "It's possible that this also reflects the beginning of mob behavior in herbivorous marsupials, such as we see today in grey kangaroos."

The team, led by Karen Black of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, has literally just "scratched the surface" of the cave, "with thousands more bones evident at deeper levels in the deposit," Archer said.

Details of the find at the site known as AL90 in the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil field in Queensland are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

no time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Periodicity On the Quick

I don't have time to do a proper post on periodicity - the idea that mass extinctions happen on a semi clockwork fashion periodically. However, the recent paper that I finished reading and two online friends' posts (here and here) prompted me to write a quick something.

Periodicity came out of a paper done by Raup and Sepkoski back in 1984 based on a database of marine fossils that suggested that there might be a regular pattern to the mass extinctions. They felt they had uncovered a pattern of regular mass extinctions at 26 million years. This, in turn, inspired the idea of Nemesis, a dwarf companion to our sun. There was a hunt for Nemesis, which turned up zilch. Others have suggested that it is actually the sun's orbit around the center of the galaxy and the movement above and below the galactic arms that would cause the periodic signal. The most recent paper that refutes that there could not be a companion star such as Nemesis. It also casts doubt on the galactic orbit having anything to do with the extinctions. They still uncover a 27 million year repeating pattern for the extinctions.

Some of the popular press has stated that the general consensus amongst extinction researchers is that periodicity is real. Unfortunately, that's incorrect. There isn't a general consensus that agrees on this. On the contrary, it looks as though most researchers, other than a few (mostly physics and astronomy types), have rejected the idea. The idea, while perhaps not fringe, is definitely not in the mainstream.

Part of the reason for that is that there are at least two different killers for mass extinctions: impacts (KT Extinction) and vulcanism (Permian-Triassic and Late Triassic Extinctions). There seems to be a third, too: radically cooling (Eocene). Making these rather different extinction mechanisms follow a regular clock seems implausible at best.

My stat is weak enough that I'd rather not take on the paper's analysis directly. However, I can check on the predictions as to where the extinctions ought to be happening and see if there are corresponding generally acknowledged mass extinctions every 27 my. The authors anchor on the KT extinction and state that there ought to be a mass extinction every 27 my for the last 500 million years. Is there?

We'll go back at least to the Permian Extinction. I am rushing this out here.

Predicted Extinctions:

11 mya: Miocene, Serravillian
38 mya: Eocene, Bartonian
65 mya: KT Extinction
92 mya: Cretaceous, Turonian
119 mya: Cretaceous, Aptian
146 mya: Jurassic, Tithonian
173 mya: Jurassic, Aalenian
200 mya: Triassic-Jurassic Boundary
227 mya: Triassic, Carnian
254 mya: Permian, Wuchuapingian
281 mya: Permian, Artinskian
308 mya: Carboniferous, Moscovian
335 mya: Carboniferous, Visean
362 mya: Devonian, Famennian
389 mya: Devonian, Givetian
416 mya: Silurian-Devonian Boundary
443 mya: Ordovician-Silurian Boundary
470 mya: Ordovician, Dapingian
497 mya: Cambrian, Furongian

Actual Extinctions:

14.5 mya: Middle Miocene Disruption (off by 3 my)
33.9 mya: Late Eocene Extinctions (off by 4 my)
65 mya: KT Extinction.
93.5 mya: Cennomanian-Turonian (off by 1.5 mya)
117 mya: Aptian Extinction (off by 2 my)
145 mya: End Jurassic: often considered regional only (off by 1 my)
183 mya: Toarcian Turnover (off by 10 my)
200 mya: Triassic-Jurassic Extinction (spot on)
228 mya: Carnian Extinctions? Questionable, supported, iirc, by Benton (off by 1 my)
251 mya: PT Extinction (off by 3 my)
260 mya: Guadelupian Mass Extinction (off by 6 my)

then we get proverbial crickets. The Carboniferous had little as far as mass extinctions go. In fact, the stretch between the Devonian and the Permian Mass extinctions has been commented on as faunal turnover at a relatively gradual rate due to shifting environments and evolutionary innovation more than anything. However, the Devonian Mass Extinctions have been called one damned thing after another, for a perdiod of 20 to 30 million years extinctions were VERY common. In fact, there are two or three different peaks:

360 mya: Carboniferous-Devonian Boundary/Hangenberg Event (off by 2 my)
375 mya: The Frasnian-Famennian/Kellwasser Event (off by 13 my)

420 mya: Lau event (off by 4 my)
423 mya: Mulde event(off by 7 my)
426 mya: Irevikean event (off by 10 my)

443 mya: Ordovician Mass Extinction (spot on)

Prior to that is highly subject to change. An increasing number of Cambrian taxa are being found in later geological periods. Likewise, there may actually be Ediacarans that make it pretty far into the Paleozoic.

What does that say to me?

The whole thing doesn't really hold water for me. Period ending extinctions are the best fit...but...the causes have zilch in common! KT: Impact. TJ: Vulcanism. Ordovician: Glaciation! The patterns of the extinctions are also different from one another. How an asteroid, a volcano, and a glaciation can have the same cause...well...that stretches credibility a bit.

Anyways, this has taken too long as it is. More, perhaps, later.

Saadanius hijazensis: an exciting Saudi Oligocene Primate

The rust-coloured plateau above Mecca in Saudi Arabia may soon attract pilgrims of palaeontology. The hills, which overlook the Red Sea, have disgorged the 29–28-million-year-old partial skull fossil of an early primate that possesses features both of apes and monkeys. The skull could help palaeontologists to answer questions about the life of primates in a period that until now has provided few fossils.

When he caught sight of the skull during an expedition in search of ancient whale fossils last year, Iyad Zalmout wondered whether it belonged to a monkey or an ape. "It turns out it's not an ape, it's not a monkey, it's something intermediate," says Zalmout, a palaeontologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and an author of a paper published in Nature today1.

The primate, dubbed Saadanius hijazensis, shares characteristics with Propliopithecoidea, an ancestor of apes and monkeys which existed more than 30 million years ago, as well as with more recent primates found to have lived from 23 million years ago. Saadanius lacks the advanced sinuses of the modern apes and monkeys that are collectively called catarrhines, but has a bony ear tube that was not yet fully developed in the Propliopithecoidea.

"This fossil is really key because it has that bony tube," says Erik Seiffert, an anatomist at Stony Brook University in New York. Comparison of the tube and other features, such as the teeth and the position of the eye sockets on the partial skull, with those of other primates could help palaeontologists to reconstruct the branches of the catarrhine family tree, between 30 and about 23 million years ago, says Seiffert.

Interesting. Again, no time.

Paper here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Bay Bridge Progress...of a sort

Another three years to go...ARGH!

The original Bay Bridge took three years to build. This one? 11!


Who I Write Like

I submitted three posts:

The Medea Hypothesis Conclusion:

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Stop Dreaming!

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Addressing YAGUMETS

I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

2/3rds Dan Brown and 1/3rd Margret Atwood. hrm.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Yet ANOTHER Ceratopsian: Mojoceratops perifania

When Nicholas Longrich discovered a new dinosaur species with a heart-shaped frill on its head, he wanted to come up with a name just as flamboyant as the dinosaur's appearance. Over a few beers with fellow paleontologists one night, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind: Mojoceratops.

"It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, 'Wait — that actually sounds cool,' " said Longrich, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. "I tried to come up with serious names after that, but Mojoceratops just sort of stuck."

With the publication of Longrich's paper describing his find in the Journal of Paleontology, online today, the name is now official.

The dinosaur is one of more than a dozen species belonging to the chasmosaurine ceratopsid family, which are defined by elaborate frills on their skulls. A plant eater about the size of a hippopotamus, Mojoceratops appeared about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous — 10 million years earlier than its well-known cousin, the Triceratops. The species, which is related to another dinosaur in Texas, is found only in Canada's Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces and was short-lived, having survived for only about one million years.

It was only after coming up with the unusual name that Longrich looked into its etymology. Surprisingly, he found that it was a perfect fit for the species, which sported a flamboyant, heart-shaped frill on its head.


All in all, Longrich turned up eight partial skulls of the new species, which now boasts a name with just as much flair as its unusually shaped head.

Wow. Is 2010 the year of the ceratopsians or what?!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Help with Some Materials Testing!

We are now facing a countdown, unfortunately. We have a new material and some larger named composites companies have gotten wind of it.

Short version: a cryogenic compatible, corrosive compatible, carbon composite (made with a secret sauce) that is 1/7th the weight of aluminum for the same strength.

See the kickstarter link.

(Sorry, Noel, had to say what I was doing)

First Britons More Than 800k Years Ago

Ancient man ventured into northern Europe far earlier than previously thought, settling on England's east coast more than 800,000 years ago, scientists said.

It had been assumed that humans — thought to have emerged from Africa around 1.75 million years ago — kept mostly to relatively warm tropical forests, steppes and Mediterranean areas as they spread across Eurasia.

But the discovery of a collection of flint tools some 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of London shows that quite early on man braved colder climes.


About 75 flint tools have been found at the site near Happisburgh, a seaside hamlet in Norfolk, Parfitt and colleagues report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The researchers dated the artifacts to somewhere between 866,000 to 814,000 years ago or 970,000 to 936,000 years ago. That's at least 100,000 years before the earliest known date for British settlement, in nearby Pakefield.

Exactly what kind of humans made these tools is unknown.

"It is impossible to guess who those people were without fossil evidence," said Eric Delson, an anthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, who was not involved in the research.

Mammoths and saber-toothed cats roamed the area at that time, and the River Thames flowed into the sea there — about 150 kilometers (90 miles) to the north of where its mouth is today. The climate was a little colder than now, at least during the winter.

(wow the blog got dusty fast)

Do these count as trace fossils for hominds, I wonder?