Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ukraine: Great Patterns of Little Seen

The fighting continues, but today there was little in the way of progress on the side of the Ukrainians today.  There has been little in the way of new revelations either.  Or are there?

Ukraine's Rada refused to accept the resignation of Yatsenyuk.  Presumably this means he was persuaded to stay through the election at least.

Mass graves are being dug up in Slavyansk.

The rebels mounted a major attack on the Ukrainian army at Shakhtarsk.  There were a lot of casualties but no word whether the rebels

A Russian soldier who couldn't help himself ran around taking selfies with his unit and uploading them.  It seems Instagram was geotagging them and...he and his unit were inside Ukraine.  I thinkwe can definitely return to the tag of 'little green men' again.

The mayor of Dokuchaev was killed.

The Russians continue to stream equipment across the border and bombard the Ukrainian army who is within reach.

Visualizing Cultural Movement From 600 BC to Now

Introducing Stellar, a Bitcoin Rival Backed by Stripe, & Given Away Free (at first)

Stripe is diving into digital currency in a big way.

The San Francisco-based startup, whose technology lets businesses accept online payments, helped introduce a new Bitcoin-like currency on Thursday called “stellar,” as well as a payments network that lets users send any kind of traditional and digital currency including U.S. dollars, pesos, euros and Bitcoins. People will be able to send one kind of currency across the globe and have it automatically converted into another — a sort of all-inclusive online money exchange.

At first, Stellar will be given away for free as a way to introduce more people to the nascent world of digital money, or so-called “crypto-currency.” It’s also a sure-fire way to get stellar to as many people as quickly as possible.

Stellar was developed by the Stellar Development Foundation, a non-profit created by Stripe CEO Patrick Collison and Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb plus $3 million in initial funding from Stripe. The foundation’s board and advisors boast impressive names like PayPal co-founder Keith Rabois, YCombinator partner Sam Altman, AngelList cofounder Naval Ravikant and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, among others.

Collison had been kicking around the idea of an agnostic online payments network since 2011, shortly after he and brother John began working on the technology for Stripe. “Even before Stripe launched, we were thinking about what crypto-currencies mean for Stripe and in particular, how we can take advantage of them in order to accomplish the things we want to do,” Collison explained to Fortune earlier this week. Collision has talked over the years of wanting to make online payments universal and ubiquitous, and he felt crypto-currencies dovetailed with that vision.

So several months ago, Collison began brainstorming with McCaleb, who had helped build Ripple, a Bitcoin rival. “We were having these conversations, and it was so clear what Stripe thought should exist, and what he thought should exist, and they almost precisely [matched up],” Collison recalled. “So it made sense to decide to do something together.”

NASA's JPL Makes Bi Metallic 3d Printer

The technology to 3D print a single part from multiple materials has been around for years, but only for polymer-based additive manufacturing processes. For metals, jobs are typically confined to a single powdered base metal or alloy per object.

However, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory say they are in development of a 3D printing technique that allows for print jobs to transition from one metal to another in a single object. According the JPL researchers, these gradient metals have been created previously in a lab setting but NASA’s process is the first to make usable objects that take advantage of the mechanical and thermal properties of the various metals used.

“We’re taking a standard 3-D printing process and combining the ability to change the metal powder that the part is being built with on the fly,” said Douglas Hofmann, a researcher in material science and metallurgy at JPL, and visiting associate at Caltech. “You can constantly be changing the composition of the material.”

According to the researchers, the process is based on Laser Deposition technology, in which metal powder is injected into a high-powered laser beam that melts the surface of the target object to form a small molten pool. Powder applied to this pool is absorbed and leaves a deposit as thin as 0.005 in. thick. These densely bonded layers can then be used to either build or repair metal parts.

In JPL’s technique, the build material’s composition is gradually transitioned as the print progresses. For example, the powdered build material might contain 97 percent titanium alloy and 3 percent stainless steel at the beginning of the transition. Then, in 1 percent increments between layers, the gradient progresses to 97 percent stainless steel and 3 percent Ti alloy by some defined point in the overall 3D printing process.

The main benefit — in addition to testing the metallurgical properties of new alloy compositions – is to take advantage of the differing physical properties (i.e. thermal expansion, magnetism or melting temperature) of the two or more metals in one solid component, say the researchers.

USAF Debating 6th Generation Fighter Concepts

The next generation of weapons technology that replaces the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 may not be a single-seater or even a fighter, but the end result should have a larger magazine, according to the retiring head of the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC).

Bringing to light at least five years of internal discussions about a so-called “sixth-generation fighter”, Gen Mike Hostage’s remarks on 30 July at an event hosted by the Air Force Association (AFA) illustrates the rapidly evolving nature of the air dominance mission.

“It isn’t necessarily another single-seat fighter,” says Hostage, according to an audio recording posted online by the AFA. “I’ve been telling the teams that work for me, ‘Don’t start into this process thinking single-engine [or] twin-engine. Don’t be thinking in terms of a platform'."

Hostage’s comments echo similar sentiments in a 2009 ACC request for information. The document sought industry feedback on sixth-generation air dominance technologies, including ground-based and non-kinetic solutions to airborne threats.

In his role as ACC commander, Hostage was charged with shaping the requirements for whatever follows the F-35 in the air force’s acquisition process, and he has preserved the open-ended approach outlined in the 2009 document.

“If it’s a single button on a keyboard that makes all our adversaries fall to the ground, I’m okay with that,” Hostage says.

However, while Hostage is publicly emphasising a diverse range of technologies, industry officials have been promoting platform-based concepts. Three major combat aircraft design houses – Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman – have released concept designs for a sixth-generation fighter featuring supersonic, tailless characteristics.

Since 2009, the air force has released a variety of reports on future air dominance technologies – including a concept for a tailless supersonic air vehicle. Air dominance weapons have also been studied, although the status of a next-generation air-to-air missile is shrouded in secrecy.

For Hostage, a key limitation of relying on a single platform appears to be the limited magazine of onboard weapons. He laments that although the F-22 can penetrate highly defended airspace, its internal weapons bay is limited to eight missiles.

“I can only whack eight bad guys in the process,” Hostage says. “I’d like to go there and whack a whole bunch of them.”

They ought to consider returning to the mothership concept which was abandoned with the Goblin. Rather than small manned fighters, use expendable, but very maneuverable drones. They can either be operated by someone on the mothership or made semi autonomous.  The mothership could still have a missile bay, but might also boast a high energy laser (or two), a drone bay and be almost double the size of a B-2.  It need not be a dog fighter.  That's what the drones are for.  The lasers are for defense against incoming missiles and downing aircraft within visual range: can't outrun light.

Chinese Radar be Able to "See" F-35 Stealth Technology

Increasingly sophisticated radar in China and Russia may soon be able to pierce the stealth armor on F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, according to a news report.

The stealth coating on the U.S.-made fifth-generation fighters shields the aircraft from high-frequency radars operating in the Ku, X and C bands and some of the S band, but not from low-frequency systems utilizing L, UHF and VHF wavelengths, according to an article by Dave Majumdar at USNI News.

China and Russia are now developing low-frequency radars with more computing power designed to track stealth aircraft with more precision — enough to target with a missile, according to the report, citing an unnamed former senior U.S. Navy official.

“Acquisition and fire control radars are starting to creep down the frequency spectrum,” the official told USNI News. “I don’t see how you long survive in the world of 2020 or 2030 when dealing with these systems if you don’t have the lower frequency coverage.”

To be sure, the Defense Department is aware of the increasing sophistication of enemy air defenses, known in military parlance as anti-access, area-denial, or A2-AD, environments.

Antarctic Glaciation Caused by Carbon dioxide Drawdown, not Thermal Isolation

Climate modelers from the University of New Hampshire have shown that the most likely explanation for the initiation of Antarctic glaciation during a major climate shift 34 million years ago was decreased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. The finding counters a 40-year-old theory suggesting massive rearrangements of Earth's continents caused global cooling and the abrupt formation of the Antarctic ice sheet. It will provide scientists insight into the climate change implications of current rising global CO2 levels.

In a paper published today in Nature, Matthew Huber of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of Earth sciences provides evidence that the long-held, prevailing theory known as "Southern Ocean gateway opening" is not the best explanation for the climate shift that occurred during the Eocene-Oligocene transition when Earth's polar regions were ice-free.

"The Eocene-Oligocene transition was a major event in the history of the planet and our results really flip the whole story on its head," says Huber. "The textbook version has been that gateway opening, in which Australia pulled away from Antarctica, isolated the polar continent from warm tropical currents, and changed temperature gradients and circulation patterns in the ocean around Antarctica, which in turn began to generate the ice sheet. We've shown that, instead, CO2-driven cooling initiated the ice sheet and that this altered ocean circulation."

Oh, that nefarious Azolla.  Wiped out an entire continent's worth of terrestrial ecosystem.

LLNL's National Ignition Facility Used to Compress Diamond, Simulate Interior of Jupiter

Lawrence Livermore scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system.

Researchers can now re-create and accurately measure material properties that control how these planets evolve over time, information essential for understanding how these massive objects form. This study focused on carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos (after hydrogen, helium and oxygen), which has an important role in many types of planets within and outside our solar system. The research appears in the June 17 edition of the journal, Nature.

Using the largest laser in the world, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, teams from the Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University squeezed samples to 50 million times Earth's atmospheric pressure, which is comparable to the pressures at the center of Jupiter and Saturn. Of the 192 lasers at NIF, the team used 176 with exquisitely shaped energy versus time to produce a pressure wave that compressed the material for a short period of time. The sample – diamond – is vaporized in less than 10 billionths of a second.

Though diamond is the least compressible material known, the researchers were able to compress it to an unprecedented density greater than lead at ambient conditions.

"The experimental techniques developed here provide a new capability to experimentally reproduce pressure–temperature conditions deep in planetary interiors," said Ray Smith, LLNL physicist and lead author of the paper.

Such pressures have been reached before, but only with shock waves that also create high temperatures – hundreds of thousands of degrees or more – that are not realistic for planetary interiors. The technical challenge was keeping temperatures low enough to be relevant to planets. The problem is similar to moving a plow slowly enough to push sand forward without building it up in height. This was accomplished by carefully tuning the rate at which the laser intensity changes with time.

Precolumbian Californians Practiced Fire Ecology Manipulation

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildfire Refuge during the Ecological Society of America's 99th Annual Meeting, in Sacramento, Cal. this August. Visitors will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.

Lake will also host a special session on a "sense of place," sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.

"The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system," said Lake. "To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system."

Evolutionary Trends in Triceratops

Evolutionary trends in Triceratops from the Hell Creek Formation, Montana


Scannella et al


The placement of over 50 skulls of the well-known horned dinosaur Triceratops within a stratigraphic framework for the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation (HCF) of Montana reveals the evolutionary transformation of this genus. Specimens referable to the two recognized morphospecies of Triceratops, T. horridus and T. prorsus, are stratigraphically separated within the HCF with the T. prorsus morphology recovered in the upper third of the formation and T. horridus found lower in the formation. Hypotheses that these morphospecies represent sexual or ontogenetic variation within a single species are thus untenable. Stratigraphic placement of specimens appears to reveal ancestor–descendant relationships. Transitional morphologies are found in the middle unit of the formation, a finding that is consistent with the evolution of Triceratops being characterized by anagenesis, the transformation of a lineage over time. Variation among specimens from this critical stratigraphic zone may indicate a branching event in the Triceratops lineage. Purely cladogenetic interpretations of the HCF dataset imply greater diversity within the formation. These findings underscore the critical role of stratigraphic data in deciphering evolutionary patterns in the Dinosauria.

The Impact of the Toarcian Jurassic Oceanic Anoxic Event on Pelagic Macrofauna

The impact of anoxia on pelagic macrofauna during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (Early Jurassic)


Caswell et al


Extreme environmental change during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event had widespread impacts on marine biota. This study provides new evidence, from the Yorkshire coast sections, UK, that the event was associated with periods of elevated fish and ammonite mortality. Using a synthesis of pelagic macrofaunal changes, benthic macrofaunal data and geochemical proxies we show that there are stratigraphical correlations between: (1) pelagic macrofaunal ranges and abundance, (2) benthic macrofaunal abundance, and (3) geochemical proxies that indicate deoxygenation. We identify eight stratigraphical intervals of differing character. Results suggest two major phases of relatively persistent deoxygenation with photic zone euxinia. The cyclostratigraphic timescale indicates that each phase lasted at least tens of thousands of years. Belemnite migration during the event probably resulted from increased seawater temperatures and low food supply similar to that observed for many marine taxa, including squid, within the present-day oceans.

Evidence of Continental Rifting in the Columbia Supercontinent

Constraints on the Statherian evolution of the intraplate rifting in a Paleo-Mesoproterozoic paleocontinent: New stratigraphic and geochronology record from the eastern São Francisco craton


Fiho et al


An integrated approach of stratigraphic analysis and U-Pb age dating reveals some information on the tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Statherian cover of the São Francisco craton in the so-called Espinhaço basin (Atlantic shield in eastern Brazil). Here, continental sedimentation patterns, such as alluvial fan, braided-plain and lacustrine facies associations, with associated volcanic rocks are documented in two superposed basin fill-successions, which are defined as the Algodão and Sapiranga Synthems and grouped in the Botuporã Supersynthem. Both studied units consist mainly of conglomerates and cross-bedded sandstones and minor amounts of mudstones, sedimentary breccias, volcanic lava beds and volcaniclastic rocks, which were deposited in a rift basin – the Botuporã rift – during two syn-rifting phases. The Algodão Synthem represents the first rifting phase. The basal synsedimentary conglomerates of this unit were deposited mainly by subaerial debris flows, most likely along and near a rift border fault. The framework of this rock consists of only crystalline rock clasts from the basement and no fragments of volcanic rocks. Detrital zircons grains that were extracted from this facies show ages older than 2.05 Ga. The remainder of the section is dominated by fluvial sandy lithofacies with minor conglomerate lenses and sandstone-mudstone heterolithic lithofacies, which represent distal, waning-flood deposits in a lacustrine environment. The upper section also contains hummocky cross-stratified sandstone lithofacies, which are related to a storm-influenced deposition. On top of the Algodão succession, the volcanic rocks were dated at 1775 ± 7 Ma, which was interpreted as the near final age of the first rift-phase. Representing the second rift-phase, the Sapiranga Synthem shows similar sedimentation patterns to the Algodão Synthem. The Sapiranga Synthem rests directly on the volcanic rocks of the Algodão Synthem, and its basal conglomerates (which are most likely also related to a master fault) contain voluminous clasts of volcanic rocks, sandstones and crystalline rocks. The detrital zircons grains that were extracted from this facies show ages of 1741 ± 14 Ma. The volcanic rocks on the upper succession of the Sapiranga Synthem record ages of 1740 ± 10 Ma, which finalized the Botuporã rift evolution. A preliminary geochemical study of volcanic rocks from the Botuporã Supersynthem showed that these rocks are alkaline rocks with high K2O/Na2O ratios, which belong to an ultrapotassic suite. The low concentrations of MgO wt% suggest a felsic ultrapotassic character. The Botuporã Supersynthem is unconformably covered by a volcano-sedimentary rift-succession of EoCalymmian age – the Pajeú Synthem, which represents the second rifting stage of the Espinhaço basin. Several Statherian-related volcano-sedimentary sequences and anorogenic granitoids were dispersed in the São Francisco block, which requires a regional geologic model to explain the extensional and magmatism process during this time. We used the last Columbia paleocontinental reconstruction to constrain these processes by relating them to far-field continental extensional and magmatic record as part of a silicic LIP, which was triggered by the convection-driven tectonic-plate motion on the western border of the Atlantica block inside of the Columbia supercontinent.

Climate Change to Effect Food Crop Yields

The world faces a small but substantially increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global crop yields because of climate change, new research finds.

The authors, from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), say the odds of a major production slowdown of wheat and corn even with a warming climate are not very high. But the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming, and it may require planning by organizations that are affected by international food availability and price.

"Climate change has substantially increased the prospect that crop production will fail to keep up with rising demand in the next 20 years," said NCAR scientist Claudia Tebaldi, a co-author of the study.

Stanford professor David Lobell said he wanted to study the potential impact of climate change on agriculture in the next two decades because of questions he has received from stakeholders and decision makers in governments and the private sector.

"I'm often asked whether climate change will threaten food supply, as if it's a simple yes or no answer," Lobell said. "The truth is that over a 10- or 20-year period, it depends largely on how fast the Earth warms, and we can't predict the pace of warming very precisely. So the best we can do is try to determine the odds."

Lobell and Tebaldi used computer models of global climate, as well as data about weather and crops, to calculate the chances that climatic trends would have a negative effect of 10 percent on yields of corn and wheat in the next 20 years. This would have a major impact on food supply. Yields would continue to increase but the slowdown would effectively cut the projected rate of increase by about half at the same time that demand is projected to grow sharply.

They found that the likelihood of natural climate shifts causing such a slowdown over the next 20 years is only 1 in 200. But when the authors accounted for human-induced global warming, they found that the odds jumped to 1 in 10 for corn and 1 in 20 for wheat.


Indonesian Air Force Take Delivery of First Three F-16C/D

The Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara, TNI-AU) received the first three of 24 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D aircraft on 25 July.

The F-16s, which are being upgraded from Block 25 to Block 52 standard by the US Air Force (USAF) at Hill Air Force Base's (AFB) Ogden Air Logistics Complex (ALC) in Utah, are former USAF and Air National Guard units that were transferred to Indonesia as excess defence articles under a contract signed in January 2012.

The Indonesian government is paying about USD670 million to upgrade the aircraft with new avionics, engines, wings, landing gear and other components. According to official US Air Force media the USAF handed over one F-16C and two F-16Ds on 14 July. The remaining 21 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the Indonesian government by Ogden ALC by the end of 2015.

The three aircraft landed at Iswahjudi Airbase in Madiun, East Java, after flying from Alaska via Guam. In August, six Indonesian Air Force instructors will begin F-16C/D conversion training under the tutelage of a four-man USAF Mobile Training Team. The 24 aircraft will be split between Squadron 3 at Madiun and Squadron 16 at Pekanbaru.

Local Indonesian media have reported that the refurbishment includes service life extensions, including the overhaul of the wings, landing gear, and engines, as well as capability enhancements to avionics. These include an upgraded AN/APG-68 (V) fire control radar and Block 52 Link 16 datalink, AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management System, ALR-69 Class IV Radar Warning Receiver, and ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser Set.

Zhou Yongkang Under Investigation for Corruption in China

China's ruling Communist Party announced an investigation into a feared ex-security chief, demonstrating President Xi Jinping's firm grip on power and breaking a longstanding taboo against publicly targeting the country's topmost leaders.

If he goes to trial, Zhou Yongkang would be the highest-level official to be prosecuted since the 1981 treason trial of Mao Zedong's wife and other members of the "Gang of Four," who mercilessly persecuted political opponents during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Until his retirement in 2012, the square-jawed, granite-faced Zhou was one of nine leaders in the party's ruling inner circle — the Politburo Standing Committee — whose incumbent and retired members had been considered off-limits for prosecution in an unwritten rule aimed at preserving party unity.

However, Xi, who is party leader as well as president, has vowed to go after both low- and high-level officials in his campaign to purge the party of corruption and other wrongdoing that have undermined its legitimacy in the public eye.

The party's anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on its website Tuesday that it is investigating Zhou, 71, for serious violations of party discipline. Although it gave no details, such an announcement typically paves the way for the official to be ousted from the party and face prosecution.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ukraine: More Grinding Patterns

In Donetsk Oblast the Ukrainains took Avdiyivka, Debaltseve and Ilovaisk.  Debaltseve is the most notable because it controls the M03/M04 highway interchange.  My bet is Krasniy Luch is coming up very, very soon.  Once that has been taken, Donetsk's rebels will have serious problems.

The corridor between the border and the Ukrainian held territory was opened by the Ukrainian Army.  I had been wondering if the maps were accurate which I were seeing, showing positions and whatnot.  The Ukrainian army has successfully cut off the DNR from the LNR.

I have to wonder whether the Ukrainian army will then turn on the remainder of the DNR or try to take Krasnodon.  I'd lean towards the former.  If they could free up their troops from dealing with the DNR, they have a chance at faster progress with the LNR.

It is not to say there is no fighting elsewhere.  Its happening all over the place.  

This map may be of interest.

The rebels have attempted several coutnerattacks, but none have been successful.

Russia remains Russia.  It has continued trying to infiltrate equipment and supporting the rebels with artillery.

Using Solar Sails to Hover Over Spinning Asteroids

Asteroid body-fixed hovering using nonideal solar sails


Zeng et al


Asteroid body-fixed hovering problem using nonideal solar sail models in a compact form with controllable sail area is investigated in this paper. The nonlinear dynamic equations for the hovering problem are constructed for a spherically symmetric asteroid. The feasible region for the body-fixed hovering is solved from the above equations by using a shooting method. The effect of the sail models, including the ideal, optical, parametric and solar photon thrust, on the feasible region is studied through numerical simulations. The influence of the asteroid spinning rate and the sail area-to-mass ratio on the feasible region is discussed in a parametric way. The required sail orientations and their corresponding variable lightness numbers are given for different hovering radii to identify the feasibility of the body-fixed hovering. An attractive mission scenario is introduced to enhance the advantage of the solar sail hovering mission.

So far Around the Circle They Meet: Bitcoiners Reach out to Goldbugs

On the spectrum of currency ideologues, gold bugs and Bitcoin enthusiasts occupy equal but opposite positions. They’re both suspicious that governments are going to meddle around with normal money so much that it becomes useless—it’s just that one group thinks math is the antidote and the other believes in hoarding metal bars.

This week has seen the emergence of two separate plans to have the best of both worlds. Ripple, a digital payments network that allows people to transact in a range of virtual and traditional currencies, said it had developed a way for people to transact in a digital form of gold. The announcement on Tuesday came on the heels of a company called Anthem Vault saying it had created its own virtual currency backed by gold, known (inevitably) as Independence Coin.

Anthem Hayek Blanchard, who runs Anthem Vault, believes the time has come to convince believers in the gold standard that Bitcoin is more than a Ponzi scheme. Finally the two armies can join forces! “We don’t need to fight. We can coalesce,” he told Bloomberg News on Monday.

FBI Concerned by Robopocalypse Brought by Driverless Car

Driverless cars, such as those being developed by Google, could be lethal weapons, the FBI has reportedly warned.

An internal report, obtained by the Guardian, said the vehicles could be "game changing" for law enforcement.

The report noted criminals using automated cars would have both hands free and be able to take their eyes off the road during a car chase.

But it said that driverless vehicles could help the emergency services by automatically clearing a path for them.

In the report, which was marked restricted and obtained under a public records request, the FBI predicted the vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car".

The First Synthetic Leaf

hmm.  I wonder how the chloroplasts can be sustained outside the plant cell...

US Navy Issues Presolicitation Notice for High Energy Laser Weapons System (HELWS)

Notice Type: Presolicitation Notice

Posted Date: 28-JUL-14

Office Address: Department of the Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Dept. 1; Commander, NAWCWD, Code 210000D, 429 E. Bowen Rd - Stop 4015 China Lake CA 93555-6108

Subject: High Energy Fiber Laser

Classification Code: A - Research & Development

Solicitation Number: N6893614R0123

Contact: Jonas Kidd, Contract Specialist, Phone 760-939-2654, Fax 760-939-0528, Email - Steven Shultz, Contract Specialist, Phone 760-939-8895, Fax 760-939-0528, Email

Setaside: N/AN/A

Place of Performance Country: US

Description: Department of the Navy

Naval Air Systems Command

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Dept. 1

The High Energy Fiber Laser (HEFL) Project Office (Code 4.L.700D) of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) intends to procure technical assistance and systems engineering in the development, testing, and fielding of the High Energy Laser Weapons System (HELWS). NAWCWD serves as a focal point for defining HEFL system and sub-system requirements, system design and integration plans, prototype systems development, and testing and evaluation (T&E). Under this effort the contractor will develop and demonstrate prototype HELWS subsystems, which will be integrated together and installed in a rotary-winged aircraft for a series of airborne laser weapon demonstrations.

Specific activities to be performed include: Completion of the Integration Structure(IS) design, building, testing, and qualifying required hardware, conducting and delivering qualification testing and analysis, generating drawings and technical reports, installation of subsystems into the IS, development of written procedures for system test support, design and building of special test/handling equipment, providing system engineering support and execution of system risk management and configuration management tasks.

It is anticipated that one award will be made to fulfill this requirement under the authority of and in accordance with FAR Part 15 - Contracting by Negotiation.

This is a full and open competition..

How High Carbon dioxide Effects Atmospheric Circulation

Effects of explicit atmospheric convection at high CO2


Arnold et al


The effect of clouds on climate remains the largest uncertainty in climate change predictions, due to the inability of global climate models (GCMs) to resolve essential small-scale cloud and convection processes. We compare preindustrial and quadrupled CO2 simulations between a conventional GCM in which convection is parameterized and a “superparameterized” model in which convection is explicitly simulated with a cloud-permitting model in each grid cell. We find that the global responses of the two models to increased CO2 are broadly similar: both simulate ice-free Arctic summers, wintertime Arctic convection, and enhanced Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) activity. Superparameterization produces significant differences at both CO2 levels, including greater Arctic cloud cover, further reduced sea ice area at high CO2, and a stronger increase with CO2 of the MJO.

When and how Long was Water Active in the Milna Crater on Mars?

Timescales of fluvial activity and intermittency in Milna Crater, Mars


Buhler et al


Milna Crater, Mars (23.4S, 12.3W) exhibits signs of fluvial modification early in Mars history, including a large multi-lobed fan deposit cut by several sinuous valleys. We describe the past hydrologic conditions in Milna and the surrounding area, including a potential lake with a volume of 50 km3. We also introduce new methods (i) to calculate the timescale of sediment deposition by considering fluvial sediment input into the entire crater while accounting for non-fluvial input, and (ii) to place improved constraints on the channel dimensions through which sediment was delivered to Milna by comparing to the dimensions of inner channels found in valleys in the region surrounding Milna. By calculating the flux of fluid and sediment into the crater, we find that the crater cavity was flooded for at least months and that the time of active fluvial sediment transport without hiatus is on the order of decades to centuries, with a preferred timescale of centuries. We also calculate the total amount of water required to transport the volume of sediment we measure in Milna and conclude that impacts alone are likely insufficient to deliver enough water to Milna to allow the sedimentary fill we see.

Combining the timescales of fluvial activity in the adjacent Paraná Valles with estimates for global Noachian erosion rates, we calculate an intermittency factor for fluvial activity of ∼0.01–0.1% during 105–106 yr near the Noachian–Hesperian boundary in the Paraná Valles region. These values are comparable to arid climates on Earth where the majority of fluvial sedimentary transport takes place during floods with multi-year to decadal recurrence intervals. Our calculations of intermittency help to quantitatively reconcile the divergent estimates of the short and long timescales of fluvial activity on Mars reported in the literature.

Studying the Metallurgy of the Harappan Civilization

Characterization and comparison of the copper-base metallurgy of the Harappan sites at Farmana in Haryana and Kuntasi in Gujarat, India


Park et al


Copper-base metallic artifacts excavated from two Indus settlements at Farmana in Haryana and Kuntasi in Gujarat, India, were examined for their microstructure and chemical composition. The two sites were approximately contemporaneous and belong to the mature Harappan phase of the Indus Civilization, spanning the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. The microstructural data revealed that almost every object examined was substantially worked during fabrication. The composition data showed that arsenic served as the single alloying element in about 60% of the Farmana artifacts, with the rest of them made of either unalloyed copper or brass. Tin was not added deliberately in any of the Farmana artifacts. In the Kuntasi assemblage, however, tin as well as arsenic played a key role and most artifacts were alloyed with either arsenic or tin or both. Nevertheless, the two Harappan sites seem to have established a similar technology based on forging as the key fabrication method and circulation of product intermediaries as the primary means for metal acquisition. This article will present a detailed account of the mentioned results to characterize the technological status achieved by the two Indus communities. The results will then be compared with those of other Indus sites to gain insight into factors representing the general Indus bronze tradition.

Pachycephalosaurids Were NOT Upland Fauna?

Taphonomy and habitat preference of North American pachycephalosaurids (Dinosauria, Ornithischia)


Mallon et al


The traditional view of North American pachycephalosaurids holds that their domes are typically worn, as though they had undergone extensive fluvial transport, and that these animals therefore inhabited upland environments (e.g. piedmont/intermontane settings) relative to where their remains are typically found. Using a statistically robust sample of domes from Alberta, Canada, we subject these hypotheses to various forms of quantitative testing and show that: (1) domes typically exhibit minimal rounding; (2) dome roundness does not positively correlate with distance from the presumed intermontane origin; and (3) pachycephalosaurid remains are not relatively more abundant in intermontane than in alluvial or coastal plain palaeoenvironments. These findings contradict the traditional view of North American pachycephalosaurid dome taphonomy and support the argument that pachycephalosaurids frequented alluvial and coastal lowlands.

Chicxulub Impact had Just the "Right" Timing to Kill-off Dinosaurs?

The extinction of the dinosaurs


Brusatte et al


Non-avian dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago, geologically coincident with the impact of a large bolide (comet or asteroid) during an interval of massive volcanic eruptions and changes in temperature and sea level. There has long been fervent debate about how these events affected dinosaurs. We review a wealth of new data accumulated over the past two decades, provide updated and novel analyses of long-term dinosaur diversity trends during the latest Cretaceous, and discuss an emerging consensus on the extinction's tempo and causes. Little support exists for a global, long-term decline across non-avian dinosaur diversity prior to their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. However, restructuring of latest Cretaceous dinosaur faunas in North America led to reduced diversity of large-bodied herbivores, perhaps making communities more susceptible to cascading extinctions. The abruptness of the dinosaur extinction suggests a key role for the bolide impact, although the coarseness of the fossil record makes testing the effects of Deccan volcanism difficult.

NeoArchean Canadian Deposits are Similar to Those on Mars

Iron-rich alkaline magmatism in the Archean Wawa greenstone belts (Ontario, Canada)


Kitayama et al


The finding of Fe-rich picritic basalts on Mars has stimulated interest in Fe-rich magmatism on the early Earth. Rare vestiges of Fe-rich magmatism have been identified in remnants of old crust, but many other lithologies reported as ‘enriched’ or ‘Al-depleted’ komatiites in Archean terranes may also be derived from Fe-rich primitive magmas. Although absent today and rare in the Phanerozoic, Fe-rich magmatism may thus have been widespread on the early Earth. Knowledge of the mineralogy and geological setting of Archean Fe-rich igneous rocks may reveal the nature of volcanic activity on the early Earth and possibly Mars.

We conducted a detailed petrological study of some of the best exposed of these terrestrial Fe-rich igneous rocks, which occur in the Pulpwood-Playter Harbours Sequence of the Heron Bay volcanics (∼2.6-2.7 Ga) in the Wawa oceanic plateau association of the Superior Province (Canada). Rocks from these Fe-rich igneous bodies range from serpentinized dunite and clinopyroxenite to differentiated gabbro. They followed the crystallization sequence: olivine ± chromite, clinopyroxene, Fe-Ti oxide and plagioclase. Whole-rock major and trace element analyses show that these Fe-rich bodies are mildly alkaline, and are enriched in incompatible trace elements. The parental magma that we calculated for the Fe-rich bodies is a strongly Fe-rich (∼19 wt.% FeOtot) alkaline magma, with at least ∼9 wt.% MgO. It represents the most Fe- and trace element-enriched end-member of the Wawa greenstone belts and may be the Archean equivalent of modern alkaline basalt.

Magmatic clinopyroxene compositions indicate that crystal fractionation occurred in a small closed-system under low-pressure conditions without significant recharge of magma. Our crystal accumulation models confirm that a closed body of this ferropicritic alkaline magma can undergo progressive crystal accumulation and differentiate to produce the Fe-rich rocks of Pulpwood-Playter Harbours. The observed range of trace elements is mainly controled by increasing proportions of inter-cumulus liquid retained in the rocks during their crystallization and the gabbros represent residual liquid portions of thick lava flows or sub-volcanic sills undergoing extensive closed-system differentiation (∼80% crystal fractionation).

Detailed mapping of the Fe-rich bodies revealed that they are underlain by tholeiitic lava and overlain by some volumetrically minor Fe-rich lava. These upper Fe-rich lavas are more enriched in Fe and incompatible trace elements compared to the lower tholeiites and correspond to mixtures between a tholeiitic magma and the Fe-rich alkaline magma parent to the cumulate rocks. The close spatial association between the tholeiites and alkaline ferropicritic bodies at Pulpwood-Playter Harbours suggests a mantle source in which local regions enriched in Fe- and trace elements melted to produce volumetrically minor, mildly alkaline ferropicritic magmas.

The Lake That Burned Down a Forest part 4

More Mysterious Giant Holes Have Appeared in Siberian Russia

Two more craters of unknown origin have been spotted in Russia's Siberia region, weeks after a similar-looking hole was found in the isolated northernmost area, a local paper reported.

The Siberian Times, an English-language newspaper, published pictures of two new giant holes discovered by reindeer herders, one located in the Yamal and the other in the Taymyr peninsula, both above the Arctic circle.

Chinese Police Shoot Dozens in Clashes in Xinjiang

Chinese police shot dead dozens of knife-wielding attackers on Monday morning after they staged assaults on two towns in the western region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

A gang armed with knives had first attacked a police station and government offices in the town of Elixku, in Shache county, it said, quoting local police. Some moved on to the nearby town of Huangdi, attacking civilians and smashing and setting fire to six vehicles.

"Police officers at the scene shot dead dozens of members of the mob," the brief report said.

An initial investigation showed that it was an "organised and premeditated terrorist attack", Xinhua added.

The dead and injured include not just Uighurs but members of China's majority Han Chinese population, the report said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ukraine: Patterns of Advancement and Anxiety

Today was both frustrating and hopeful.

17 hostages in Gorlovka were freed.  OTOH, the huge chemical factory in Gorlovka was set on fire.  

The Ukrainians took the town of Stepanivka.

The Russians captured a Ukrainian border patrol which was on the Ukrainian side of the line.  The Russians continue to fire heavy artillery barrages on the Ukrainian army and border patrol.  

The Russians violated Ukrainian airspace today as well.

The Russians have massed very large amounts of equipment and soldiers on their side of the border.   Whether this is for their own use or for the rebels is not known.

The rebel attempts at counter offensives have as far I can tell fallen flat.

The rebels have started opening fire, small arms and some artillery, at the Russians.  This is looking increasingly like a planned justification for intervention since the rebels are being crushed.

The US and EU imposed more sanctions.  These are still targeted rather than sectoral.

Forces Which Effect Very Flexible Solar Sails

Dynamics of highly-flexible solar sail subjected to various forces


Liu et al


Solar sail is a novel spacecraft and has the potential applications in the near future. The large amplitude vibration should be considered because it is characterized by its huge and lightweight structure. In this paper, the supporting beam of solar sail is regarded as the most important structure and used to model the sailcraft as it accounts for most of the mechanical energies when it is in deformed configuration, also as the Euler beam can model the bending motion dominant sailcraft when it experiences attitude motions. The structural dynamics of solar sail supporting beam with geometric nonlinearity undergoing the forces generated by solar radiation pressure, sliding masses and control vanes are presented. The axial and transverse vibration equations with the properties of strong coupling, nonlinearity and time-varying coefficient matrices are obtained by using Lagrange equation method after calculating the related energies and works. The vibration equations are transformed into nonlinear algebraic equations utilizing implicit unconditionally stable Newmark-β algorithm for each time step. The nonlinear algebraic equations are solved by Newton-iterative algorithm. We compute and analyze the linear and nonlinear vibration responses affected by the mass and velocity of the sliding mass, the angular velocity of the force generated by control vane in detail. The computational results indicate that the mass and velocity of sliding mass affect the vibration responses (including the vibration frequency), but the angular velocity of the force generated by control vane hardly affects the vibration responses. Moreover, the linear and nonlinear vibrations are distinct obviously by comparing the linear and nonlinear responses. It is demonstrated that the geometric nonlinearity of the highly-flexible structure should be considered for performing vibration analysis exactly, and the vibration responses excited by the prescribed motion of the attitude control actuators should be analyzed carefully.

Proposed NY State Regulations for Bitcoin Have Caused a Bitcoin Community Rift

A new front has opened in the battle over Bitcoin.

Since New York became the first state to propose virtual currency regulations two weeks ago, Bitcoin enthusiasts have had a mixed reaction on whether the new rules will help legitimize the virtual currency or whether they will thwart innovation and threaten the very freedom that Bitcoin was meant to promote. The draft legislation has also exposed a division among virtual currency companies with enough resources to comply with the regulations and those without.

On Tuesday, some Bitcoin supporters are planning to send an open letter to Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York State’s top financial regulator, requesting more time to comment on his proposed legislation.

“Many of us are individuals or small start-ups operating on limited budgets without access to extensive legal resources,” the letter states. “This imposes a substantial burden as we seek to understand the proposed rules and their current and future impacts on our businesses, open-source projects and educational research.” The letter also refers to “inconsistent statements” and opaque language in the draft regulations.

Return of the Slime Mold Network

Whither the KMAX Unmanned Helicopter?

A robot helicopter that can carry three tons of cargo, the Marine Corps K-MAX certainly has the cool factor. But does it have a future?

After a six-month pilot project in Afghanistan got extended into a 33-month deployment that made 2,250 tons of deliveries, the two experimental aircraft have come home. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin is looking to the energy industry and — if export authorities approve — foreign military sales. Members of Congress have campaigned for K-MAX to become an official program of record for the US military, and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is now working with the Marine Corps on formal requirements and new concepts of operations, with demonstration flights likely next year. Lockheed is even planning a demonstration later this year in which the unmanned helicopter will work with unmanned trucks. For now, though, the two robocopters will sit in storage while humans study the deployment.

The crucial question for K-MAX is the same one as for so many other innovative items of equipment rushed into service in the last 13 grueling years: Is it just a useful niche capability for a war that’s almost over or something relevant to a range of future missions?

Fourth J-20 Chinese Stealth Fighter Prototype Flew on July 26th

The fourth known prototype of the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) J-20 fifth-generation fighter made its first flight on the morning of 26 July, according to Chinese aviation websites.

According to online postings by local spotters, the prototype flew for nearly two hours after having undertaken taxi tests since early July. The first hints on military web forums of a fourth J-20 prototype with the tail number '2012' emerged in late June, with clear photos emerging by mid-July.

Images show that '2012' features the refinements first seen in the third prototype, '2011'. These include an undernose faceted shape to hold a future electro-optical targeting system, adjusted air intakes to aid engine air flow and clipped tips on the vertical stabilizers.

The new J-20 prototype does not give any outward indication that CAC has installed an indigenous turbofan engine, despite much online speculation. The status of the J-20's intended WS-15 turbofan is not clear, and it is possible that initially deployed J-20s may use a Russian-made turbofan, perhaps an upgraded version of the Saturn AL-31 or the newer AL-117S.

The Arctic Formed Black Shale During Cenomanian-Turonian Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE 2)

Arctic black shale formation during Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2


Lenninger et al


The Late Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE2) represents a major perturbation of the global carbon cycle caused by the widespread deposition of organic-rich black shales. Although the paleoceanographic response and the spatial extent of bottom-water anoxia in low and mid-paleolatitudes are reasonably well constrained for OAE2, similar data from high paleolatitudes are lacking. Here, we present palynostratigraphy and organic-carbon isotope stratigraphy from the Sverdrup Basin, Axel Heiberg Island (Canada). It is shown that episodes of high marine organic-carbon burial at paleolatitudes of ∼70°N is contemporaneous with the widely observed occurrence of black shale deposition during OAE2. Paleontological, lithological, and geochemical data indicate normal marine conditions with persistent anoxic bottom waters during OAE2. The results imply that the high marine primary productivity pulse during OAE2 may have caused massive organic-carbon burial on the Arctic shelf in general, with important implications for hydrocarbon source-rock distribution in the Arctic region.

Evidence of Subsurface Hydrothermal Activity From a Martian Meteorite?

A Conspicuous Clay Ovoid in Nakhla: Evidence for Subsurface Hydrothermal Alteration on Mars with Implications for Astrobiology


Chatzitheodoridis et al


A conspicuous biomorphic ovoid structure has been discovered in the Nakhla martian meteorite, made of nanocrystalline iron-rich saponitic clay and amorphous material. The ovoid is indigenous to Nakhla and occurs within a late-formed amorphous mesostasis region of rhyolitic composition that is interstitial to two clinopyroxene grains with Al-rich rims, and contains acicular apatite crystals, olivine, sulfides, Ti-rich magnetite, and a new mineral of the rhoenite group. To infer the origin of the ovoid, a large set of analytical tools was employed, including scanning electron microscopy and backscattered electron imaging, wavelength-dispersive X-ray analysis, X-ray mapping, Raman spectroscopy, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry analysis, high-resolution transmission electron microscope imaging, and atomic force microscope topographic mapping. The concentric wall of the ovoid surrounds an originally hollow volume and exhibits internal layering of contrasting nanotextures but uniform chemical composition, and likely inherited its overall shape from a preexisting vesicle in the mesostasis glass. A final fibrous layer of Fe-rich phases blankets the interior surfaces of the ovoid wall structure. There is evidence that the parent rock of Nakhla has undergone a shock event from a nearby bolide impact that melted the rims of pyroxene and the interstitial matter and initiated an igneous hydrothermal system of rapidly cooling fluids, which were progressively mixed with fluids from the melted permafrost. Sharp temperature gradients were responsible for the crystallization of Al-rich clinopyroxene rims, rhoenite, acicular apatites, and the quenching of the mesostasis glass and the vesicle. During the formation of the ovoid structure, episodic fluid infiltration events resulted in the precipitation of saponite rinds around the vesicle walls, altered pyrrhotite to marcasite, and then isolated the ovoid wall structure from the rest of the system by depositing a layer of iron oxides/hydroxides. Carbonates, halite, and sulfates were deposited last within interstitial spaces and along fractures. Among three plausible competing hypotheses here, this particular abiotic scenario is considered to be the most reasonable explanation for the formation of the ovoid structure in Nakhla, and although compelling evidence for a biotic origin is lacking, it is evident that the martian subsurface contains niche environments where life could develop

Stone Tools From Ionian Pleistocene Quaternary South Africa Found

Excavations at an archaeological site at Kathu in the Northern Cape province of South Africa have produced tens of thousands of Earlier Stone Age artifacts, including hand axes and other tools. These discoveries were made by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and the University of Toronto (U of T), in collaboration with the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa.

The archaeologists' research on the Kathu Townlands site, one of the richest early prehistoric archaeological sites in South Africa, was published in the journal, PLOS ONE, on 24 July 2014.

It is estimated that the site is between 700,000 and one million years old.

Steven James Walker from the Department of Archaeology at UCT, lead author of the journal paper, says: "The site is amazing and it is threatened. We've been working well with developers as well as the South African Heritage Resources Agency to preserve it, but the town of Kathu is rapidly expanding around the site. It might get cut off on all sides by development and this would be regrettable."

A Very Large Carcharodontosaur Found in Barremian Cretaceous Spain

A large-bodied theropod (Tetanurae: Carcharodontosauria) from the Mirambel Formation (Barremian) of Spain


Gasca et al


We describe an isolated distal femur of a large-sized theropod dinosaur from the Mirambel Formation, Teruel province, Spain. It comes from the Ladruñán-3 fossil locality, which represents a sandstone channel deposit that is early Barremian (Early Cretaceous) in age. This femur can be identified as belonging to an undetermined stem carcharodontosaurid allosauroid. The distal outline is similar to that of the basal carcharodontosaurid Acrocanthosaurus, which bears a ridge for the cruciate ligaments in the flexor groove and a deep but narrow extensor groove. This new carcharodontosaurid remnant extends the presence of this large-bodied theropod lineage in the Iberian Peninsula back to the early Barremian. The coexistence of carcharodontosaurids, ceratosaurians and spinosaurids in the Barremian of the Iberian Peninsula echoes the clade composition of large-bodied predator dinosaurs characteristic of other Early Cretaceous faunas in Gondwana. This suggests that Early Cretaceous Iberian ecosystems were as diverse as other Barremian European assemblages, with carcharodontosaurids being exclusive to Iberia.

Rhynchosaurs Grew Like Archosaurs

Osteohistology of hyperodapedontine rhynchosaurs from the Upper Triassic of Southern Brazil


Veiga et al


The first osteohistological study focused exclusively on rhynchosaurs (non-archosauriform archosauromorphs), based on the hyperodapedontines Teyumbaita sulcognathus and Hyperodapedon sp., from the Upper Triassic of Southern Brazil, indicates a relatively rapid growth rate in early ontogeny shown by the fibrolamellar complex, with a change to slow intermittent growth during late ontogeny represented by parallel-fibred bone with several growth marks. Contrary to previous studies, which described a typical non-archosaur reptilian bone tissue pattern for rhynchosaurs, with growth marks extending across the entire cortex, we demonstrate that, in both studied taxa, the initial growth rate was faster in comparison to the later. This suggests that the ability rapid growth at high rates was already present in basal non-archosauriform archosauromorphs.

Swedish Knaften-Barsele arc Formed, Accreted onto Karelian Continent During Orosirian PaleoProterozoic

Hafnium isotope evidence for early-Proterozoic volcanic arc reworking in the Skellefte district (northern Sweden) and implications for the Svecofennian orogen


Guitreau et al


The Skellefte district is a seemingly juvenile and heavily mineralized crustal domain in northern Sweden that formed between 1.90 and 1.87 Ga. It is commonly interpreted as a volcanic arc deposited on a basement (known variously as the Bothnian or the Knaften-Barsele group) that could be represented by older rocks (1.96-1.94 Ga) found in the vicinity. In order to understand the potential genetic relationship between the arc and the basement, Hf and Pb isotopes in magmatic zircons from key lithologies were measured by solution multi-collector inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry. It is shown that both geological groups display similar Hf isotope compositions, which translate into decreasing ɛHf with time. Overall, the data are compatible with reworking of the Knaften-Barsele arc to produce the Skellefte rocks over a short time interval from 1.90 to 1.87 Ga in a context of crustal extension with ongoing subduction. When the data presented here are integrated with general models of tectonic evolution of the Svecofennian orogen, they fit a scenario in which the juvenile Knaften-Barsele arc formed between 1.96 and 1.94 Ga and became accreted onto the Karelian continent located further north at about 1.92-1.91 Ga. Systematic north to south variations in Pb, Nd, and Hf isotope compositions throughout the Svecofennides, interpreted as resulting from an increase in Archean crust involvement towards the south, indicate a genetic link between the Proterozoic crustal domains of Sweden and Finland.

The Lake That Burned Down a Forest Part 3

Indian Dhruv Helicopter Crashed

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Dhruv utility-light attack helicopter crashed in the northern region of Uttar Pradesh on 25 July, killing all seven onboard, national media reported.

Video footage of the immediate aftermath of the crash taken by Zee News showed that the helicopter had come down in a village. Although no buildings appear to have been hit, the main body of the helicopter had been completely consumed by fire.

The cause of the accident is now being investigated by the IAF.

Russia has Violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty

he United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a letter on Monday.

It is the most serious allegation of an arms control treaty violation that the Obama administration has leveled against Russia and adds another dispute to a relationship already burdened by tensions over the Kremlin’s support for separatists in Ukraine and its decision to grant asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

At the heart of the issue is the 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of flying 300 to 3,400 miles. That accord, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, helped seal the end of the Cold War and has been regarded as a cornerstone of American-Russian arms control efforts.

Russia first began testing the cruise missiles as early as 2008, according to American officials, and the Obama administration concluded by the end of 2011 that they were a compliance concern. In May 2013, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials.

The New York Times reported in January that American officials had informed the NATO allies that Russia had tested a ground-launched cruise missile, raising serious concerns about Russia’s compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or I.N.F. Treaty as it is commonly called. The State Department said at the time that the issue was under review and that the Obama administration was not yet ready to formally declare it to be a treaty violation.

In recent months, however, the issue has been taken up by top-level officials, including a meeting early this month of the Principals’ Committee, a cabinet-level body that includes Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of state and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Senior officials said the president’s most senior advisers unanimously agreed that the test was a serious violation, and the allegation will be made public soon in the State Department’s annual report on international compliance with arms control agreements.

“The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” that report will say.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ukraine: Hopeful, but Bloody Patterns

There have been a lot of developments since my last post.  The Ukrainians have been making sold progress in recapturing the Donbass.  It is not without its cost. There are differing maps as to who controls what. The one most common shows the Ukrainians have splitt he rebel territory into two:

Pervomaysk, Torez, the "mountain" of Savur-Mogyla, Snizhne, Shakhtarsk and Lutuhine have been reportedly taken.

The battle for Donetsk, Novosvetlovka, Lugansk and Gorlovka is on.

There are claims in Gorlovka, the rebels are threatening to kill hostages and blow up the chemical factory there if they are not given a 24 hour head start on retreating. The head of the Gorlovka rebels has also reportedly disappeared.

One side or another keeps shelling the residential areas. The Ukrainians claim they are only fighting house by house and using artilery away from the residential areas. The rebels are claiming they are not doing it and the Ukrainians are. The rebels have less credibility, of course, at this point by a long shot.

The Russians sent the largest convoy of equipment yet into Ukraine.  The Pentagon noted it was over 100 vehicles. The russians have likewise continued to bombard the Ukrainian army. There are reports a full Russian army unit (perhaps the convoy above) with Russian soldiers entered the Donetsk Oblast.

The Russians have supplanted almost all the Ukrainians in the rebel upper echelon.  It looks like they have decided to stop pretending this is really Ukrainian run and instigated. 

Worrisome is the fact the Kremenchuk mayor was murdered and someone attempted the same attack on the mayor of Lvov.

China's PandaX Facility is Looking for Dark Matter

The new PandaX facility, located deep underground in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, hosts a large liquid-xenon detector designed to search for direct evidence of dark matter interactions with the nuclei of xenon and to observe 136Xe double-beta decay.

The detector's central vessel was designed to accommodate a staged target volume increase from an initial 120 kg (stage I) to 0.5 t (stage II) and ultimately to a multi-ton scale.

The technical design of the PandaX facility and detector is outlined in a new paper co-authored by Ji Xiangdong, of the Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astronomy and Cosmology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and published in the Beijing-based journal SCIENCE CHINA Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy.

While noting that cosmologists generally agree that 80 percent of the matter in the universe is made up of some form of "dark matter," these researchers also acknowledge that so far, no physicist has ever produced experimental data that provides convincing evidence for the existence and structure of dark matter.

"The standard model of particle physics, which has been very successful in explaining the properties of ordinary matter, can neither explain dark matter's existence nor its properties," Professor Ji and co-authors across China and the United States write in the new study. "Yet the discovery and identification of dark matter would have a profound impact on cosmology, astronomy, and particle physics."

"A leading dark matter candidate consistent with all astrophysical data is a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP)," they add. "WIMPs could be studied in standard particle physics through either observations of ordinary matter particles produced through DM [dark matter] annihilations in the halo of the Milky Way, production of DM particles through high-energy collisions in accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider, or WIMPs could be detected through their interactions with atomic nuclei in specially designed detectors."

Direct detection experiments are deployed in underground laboratories around the world. When WIMPs interact with nucleons in a detection medium, it is predicted they will recoil and generate kinetic motion of atoms (heat), ionization (free electrons) and scintillation (de-excitation of excited electrons).


States Besides New York Deciding on how to Regulate Bitcoin, Other Cryptocurrencies

Now that consumers can use digital currencies like bitcoin to buy rugs from, pay for Peruvian pork sandwiches from a food truck in Washington, D.C. and even make donations to political action committees, states are beginning to explore how to regulate the emerging industry.

Digital currencies — also known as virtual currencies or cash for the Internet —allow people to transfer value over the Internet, but are not legal tender. Because they don’t require third-party intermediaries such as credit card companies or PayPal, merchants and consumers can avoid the fees typically associated with traditional payment systems.

Advocates of virtual currencies also say that because personal information is not tied to transactions, digital currencies are less prone to identity theft.

With about $7.8 billion in circulation, bitcoin is the most widely used digital currency; others include Litecoin and Peercoin. All are examples of cryptocurrencies, a subset of digital currencies that rely on cryptography to function.

Many of the headlines generated by bitcoin and other digital currencies to date have focused on problems with the system. In January, for example, federal prosecutors charged the chief executive officer of BitInstant, a major bitcoin exchange company, with laundering digital currency through Silk Road, an online drug marketplace. Mt. Gox, based in Tokyo and once the largest bitcoin exchange in the world, stopped trading in February and filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it had lost half a billion dollars in virtual money.

Although digital currencies are far from widespread in their acceptance, their growing popularity — and potential for misuse — has prompted states to weigh in on what was previously uncharted territory.

“As far as we know, most state laws are completely silent on this topic,” said David J. Cotney, chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors’ Emerging Payments Task Force, which in March began exploring virtual currency.

Among the questions the task force will consider, Cotney said, is whether bitcoins should be classified as currencies, investment securities or commodities, which could determine which regulators should apply.

Are You Human?

Update on the Cruiser Mock up Being Built at Wuhan & its Extrapolated Warship


US Army Developing 3d Printed Warheads, Artillery Shells

Every technology casts a shadow. In the case of 3D printing, for every potentially benign use —like bioprinting organs—there is an unsettling opposite like printing guns at home. Now, the army is looking to use 3D printing to make the world a more dangerous place in at least one more way: building deadlier warheads.

The army has been developing its 3D printing capabilities for some time now, and has technology already nearly advanced enough to bioprint replacement skin on the battlefield. But the military isn’t just interested in saving lives—more often than not, it takes them. In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology.

“3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured,” James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center (ARDEC) in Picatinny, New Jersey, told Motherboard in an email.

The ability to print parts previously unimaginable using traditional manufacturing methods could radically open up the possibilities when it comes to what a warhead can do. For example, warheads using 3D-printed components could be designed to be more compact in order to pack in additional payloads, sensors, and safety mechanisms. Planning for printed parts in the design process will also allow the army to precisely engineer the blast radiuses of warheads for maximum effect.

Tropical Sea Surface Temperatures may Have Exceeded 40 C During Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Extreme warming of tropical waters during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum


Aze et al


The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), ca. 56 Ma, was a major global environmental perturbation attributed to a rapid rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Geochemical records of tropical sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) from the PETM are rare and are typically affected by post-depositional diagenesis. To circumvent this issue, we have analyzed oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) of single specimens of exceptionally well-preserved planktonic foraminifera from the PETM in Tanzania (∼19°S paleolatitude), which yield extremely low δ18O, down to less than –5‰. After accounting for changes in seawater chemistry and pH, we estimate from the foraminifer δ18O that tropical SSTs rose by greater than 3 °C during the PETM and may have exceeded 40 °C. Calcareous plankton are absent from a large part of the Tanzania PETM record; extreme environmental change may have temporarily caused foraminiferal exclusion.

Do Desiccation Cracks Explain Polygonal Terrain on Mars?

Potential Desiccation Cracks on Mars: A Synthesis from Modeling, Analogue-Field Studies, and Global Observations


El-Maary et al


Potential desiccation polygons (PDPs) are polygonal surface patterns that are a common feature in Noachian-to-Hesperian-aged phyllosilicate- and chloride-bearing terrains and have been observed with size scales that range from cm-wide (by current rovers) to 10s of meters-wide. The global distribution of PDPs shows that they share certain traits in terms of morphology and geologic setting that can aid identification and distinction from fracturing patterns caused by other processes. They are mostly associated with sedimentary deposits that display spectral evidence for the presence of Fe/Mg smectites, Al-rich smectites or less commonly kaolinites, carbonates, and sulfates. In addition, PDPs may indicate paleolacustrine environments, which are of high interest for planetary exploration, and their presence implies that the fractured units are rich in smectite minerals that may have been deposited in a standing body of water. A collective synthesis with new data, particularly from the HiRISE camera suggests that desiccation cracks may be more common on the surface of Mars than previously thought. A review of terrestrial research on desiccation processes with emphasis on the theoretical background, field studies, and modeling constraints is presented here as well and shown to be consistent with and relevant to certain polygonal patterns on Mars.

Human Bone and Tooth Enamel Isotopic Ratios are VERY Different

Investigating inherent differences in isotopic composition between human bone and enamel bioapatite: implications for reconstructing residential histories


Webb et al


In archaeological research, human bone and enamel bioapatite isotopic compositions are commonly used to reconstruct residential and dietary histories. In doing so, enamel and bone bioapatite are implicitly treated as isotopically equivalent, but recent research has determined that carbonate–carbon and –oxygen isotopic compositions of these two tissues may be offset by several per mil. Here, we compare the isotopic compositions of co-forming bone and enamel from juvenile humans. We also assess the impact of a standard pre-treatment procedure for the removal of organic matter and exogenous carbonates on carbon- and oxygen-isotope compositions and on bioapatite crystallinity and carbonate content. Pre-treatment procedures had minimal effect on both enamel and bone carbon and oxygen isotopic compositions (±0.4–±0.9‰) and bioapatite crystallinity, and effectively removed exogenous carbonates. The offset between enamel and bone phosphate–oxygen isotopic compositions is relatively small (±0.7 ± 0.5‰). The offsets for carbonate–oxygen (+1.4 ± 1.0‰) and –carbon (+4.3 ± 1.2‰) are larger, and enamel is consistently 18O- and 13C-enriched relative to bone. Interpreted conservatively, phosphate–oxygen isotopic data from paired enamel and bone remain suitable for determining residential history, whereas the isotopic compositions of carbonate–oxygen and –carbon from enamel and bone bioapatite are inherently different and cannot be compared uncritically.

Itemirus: a Dromaeosaur From Turonian Cretaceous Uzbekistan


Sues et al


Skeletal remains of dromaeosaurid theropods are uncommon in the richly fossiliferous continental strata of the Upper Cretaceous (Turonian) Bissekty Formation of the Kyzylkum Desert in Uzbekistan. The phylogenetic position of the first published specimen, a partial braincase designated as the holotype of Itemirus medullaris Kurzanov, 1976, has long been contentious. Our examination of the specimen supports its attribution to Dromaeosauridae. Additional, mostly well-preserved dromaeosaurid skeletal remains from the Bissekty Formation include cranial bones, teeth, vertebrae, and some podial elements. They are tentatively referred to the same taxon, Itemirus medullaris, and establish the presence of dromaeosaurid paravians in present-day Central Asia during the Turonian.

Leaf Mining Insects Went Extinct at the KT/K-Pg Extinction in Montana

After the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period that triggered the dinosaurs' extinction and ushered in the Paleocene, leaf-mining insects in the western United States completely disappeared. Only a million years later, at Mexican Hat, in southeastern Montana, fossil leaves show diverse leaf-mining traces from new insects that were not present during the Cretaceous, according to paleontologists.

"Our results indicate both that leaf-mining diversity at Mexican Hat is even higher than previously recognized, and equally importantly, that none of the Mexican Hat mines can be linked back to the local Cretaceous mining fauna," said Michael Donovan, graduate student in geosciences, Penn State.

Insects that eat leaves produce very specific types of damage. One type is from leaf miners -- insect larvae that live in the leaves and tunnel for food, leaving distinctive feeding paths and patterns of droppings.

Donovan, Peter Wilf, professor of geosciences, Penn State, and colleagues looked at 1,073 leaf fossils from Mexican Hat for mines. They compared these with more than 9,000 leaves from the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, from the Hell Creek Formation in southwestern North Dakota, and with more than 9,000 Paleocene leaves from the Fort Union Formation in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. The researchers present their results in today's (July 24) issue of PLOS ONE.

"We decided to focus on leaf miners because they are typically host specific, feeding on only a few plant species each," said Donovan. "Each miner also leaves an identifiable mining pattern."

The researchers found nine different mine-damage types at Mexican Hat attributable to the larvae of moths, wasps and flies, and six of these damage types were unique to the site.