Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ukraine: Titters and Tatters of the Frog

Fighting continues at the Donetsk airport.  There is little more than wreckage left and its getting worse.  

Ukraine has gone for a tit for tat investigation into Russian government officials for warcrimes in the Donbass.

Ukraine is also claiming there are concentration camps outside of Donetsk.

Ukraine claims Russia has rotated in new troops to the order.  This includes batteries of ballistic missiles.  Most worrisome is the report the build up is near Kharkov.

Crimea can no longer recieve international flights.  All flights must go into and out of Russia proper.

Trains out of Crimea had been canceled for 4 days.

The Russians are planning on taking France to court over the Mistral ship delivery halt.

Shenzen's Crazy Awesome Cloud City! (but will they actually build the arcology?)

Many of the world’s cities are hundreds, even thousands of years old. They evolved from the bottom up as populations changed and demanded change. A new road here, new building there. The result is striking and wild—a kind of physical history.

But what if you could start New York or London from scratch?

To see skylines of the future—look east. Perhaps nowhere is urban growth happening more rapidly than in China. Home to a burgeoning list of megacities (population over 10 million), the country is wide open to ambitious and imaginative urban design.

n a recent contest, the city of Shenzhen went looking for creative proposals for a financial district (think London’s Canary Wharf) including three skyscrapers, a scattering of cultural buildings, and a green space linking it all together.

The co-winning design is a massive complex called Cloud Citizen that’s nearly as wide as it is tall. The structure forms a fused city skyline complete with three towers—the tallest of which would be the second highest in the world (680 meters)—and a series of giant floating skyways. Cloud Citizen would house office, commercial, leisure, and cultural space and include suspended public plazas and roads.

The FB page of the design (find the picture which is totally wrong for the market!)

A "Low Power" Fusion Drive

A direct fusion drive for rocket propulsion


Razin et al


The Direct Fusion Drive (DFD), a compact, anuetronic fusion engine, will enable more challenging exploration missions in the solar system. The engine proposed here uses a deuterium–helium-3 reaction to produce fusion energy by employing a novel field-reversed configuration (FRC) for magnetic confinement. The FRC has a simple linear solenoid coil geometry yet generates higher plasma pressure, hence higher fusion power density, for a given magnetic field strength than other magnetic-confinement plasma devices. Waste heat generated from the plasma׳s Bremsstrahlung and synchrotron radiation is recycled to maintain the fusion temperature. The charged reaction products, augmented by additional propellant, are exhausted through a magnetic nozzle. A 1 MW DFD is presented in the context of a mission to deploy the James Webb Space Telescope (6200 kg) from GPS orbit to a Sun–Earth L2 halo orbit in 37 days using just 353 kg of propellant and about half a kilogram of 3He. The engine is designed to produce 40 N of thrust with an exhaust velocity of 56.5 km/s and has a specific power of 0.18 kW/kg.

Robopocalypse Now: MIT Gave DARPA/Boston Dynamics Atlas Hands

Boy Meets...oh boy!

Lyudmila bought season passes to 6 Flags and Six Flags does a halloween ...whatever.  However, you have to get kids out of the park before about 5:30 because the zombies and whatnot come out then.  Orest and I had a father-son day because Avrora had to prepare a presentation she procrastinated on.  Lyudmila worked with her on it while I took Orest to Six Flags.  While there, Orest met Myra...and they were mutually enamored.  oh boy.  (Myra's little sister Abby was there, too.)

Ebola has Reached the United States

The United States has one confirmed case of Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday, marking the first domestic appearance of the deadly virus that has ravaged swaths of continental Africa.

The as-yet unidentified patient is located in Dallas, officials say, effectively confirming a statement issued on Monday by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. The organization said that an unnamed patient was being tested for Ebola and had been placed in "strict isolation" due to the patient's symptoms and recent travel history.

In a press conference, CDC Director Tom Frieden said the patient in question had been traveling in Liberia, where he may have contracted the disease. He returned to the United States on the 20th of September, after which he sought care. Frieden attempted to assuage concerns about Ebola's contagious effect, saying that the virus was only spread through direct contact, and was not airborne. He vowed that officials would contain a potential spread.

US Navy Looking at Exoskeletons for Damage Control, Cargo Work

Glamorous it isn’t, but Ripley’s loading heavy supplies aboard a Marine Corps landing craft — the kind of unsexy but essential mission that real-life exoskeletons may actually be able to do in the next few years. In an invitation-only workshop I attended this morning at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) with military officers, technical experts, and thinktank wonks, what struck me was how low some of the low-hanging fruit may be, just waiting for exoskeletons to reach out and pick it with their iron claws.

The big debate this morning, in fact, was how to balance seizing the immediate opportunities for naval forces with exploring high-risk, high-payoff areas such as damage control. Several participants pleaded to get current prototypes out into the fleet fast, hauling ammunition and other heavy objects, so the Navy can build experience with and confidence in the technology, rather than keep tinkering in the lab in pursuit of more ambitious missions where it’s easy to over-promise and under-deliver.

The conveners of the workshop, however, were more optimistic about the higher-end applications. “The killer app [is] damage control, ” Andrew Herr told me after the workshop. “[It's] a near-term possibility.”

Rapid Faunal Change Across the Cenomanian/Turonian Cretaceous Boundary in Egypt

Stratigraphic significance of rapid faunal change across the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary in the Eastern Desert, Egypt




A significant and rapid faunal change across the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary in the Eastern Desert of Egypt has been recognized by reconstructing the stratigraphic ranges of macroinvertebrates within the upper Cenomanian–lower Turonian Galala and Abu Qada formations. The faunal change initiated with a considerable loss of taxa during the late Cenomanian at the top of the Neolobites vibrayeanus ammonite zone, coinciding with sequence boundary SB Ce 5, ∼400 ka before the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary (93.9 Ma). Only 10% of the taxa that existed during the late Cenomanian have been recorded from lower Turonian strata. The changes in the macroinvertebrate faunas continued across the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary and new faunal associations evolved after the earliest Turonian Vascoceras proprium ammonite zone of (∼200 ka after the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary). Therefore, the crisis that caused this faunal change around the Cenomanian–Turonian boundary over approximately 600 ka. The timing of the macrofaunal change recognized in the study area completely overlaps with the well-known Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE) 2 and most probably it is one of the effects of the major environmental perturbations (critical warming, high atmospheric CO2 concentration, and ocean water acidification) associated with this event. In addition, the sequence-stratigraphic analysis shows strong correlation exists between pattern of first and last occurrences of macroinvertebrate faunas and sea-level changes. Therefore, the oceanographic changes (rapid sea-level rise) may have also contributed to the Cenomanian–Turonian faunal change in the study area.

Monster Sized, 55,000 Solar Mass First Stars Left no Blackhole

Certain primordial stars—those between 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our Sun, or solar masses—may have died unusually. In death, these objects—among the Universe’s first-generation of stars—would have exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no remnant black hole behind.

Astrophysicists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the University of Minnesota came to this conclusion after running a number of supercomputer simulations at the Department of Energy’s (DOE's) National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Minnesota Supercomputing Institute at the University of Minnesota. They relied extensively on CASTRO, a compressible astrophysics code developed at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab’s) Computational Research Division (CRD). Their findings were recently published in Astrophysical Journal (ApJ).

First-generation stars are especially interesting because they produced the first heavy elements, or chemical elements other than hydrogen and helium. In death, they sent their chemical creations into outer space, paving the way for subsequent generations of stars, solar systems and galaxies. With a greater understanding of how these first stars died, scientists hope to glean some insights about how the Universe, as we know it today, came to be.

“We found that there is a narrow window where supermassive stars could explode completely instead of becoming a supermassive black hole—no one has ever found this mechanism before,” says Ke-Jung Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSC and lead author of the ApJ paper. “Without NERSC resources, it would have taken us a lot longer to reach this result. From a user perspective, the facility is run very efficiently and it is an extremely convenient place to do science.”

Levallois Technology (Stone Tools) may NOT Have Originated in Africa

A new discovery of thousands of Stone Age tools has provided a major insight into human innovation 325,000 years ago and how early technological developments spread across the world, according to research published in the journal Science.

Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, together with an international team from across the United States and Europe, have found evidence which challenges the belief that a type of technology known as Levallois – where the flakes and blades of stones were used to make useful products such as hunting weapons – was invented in Africa and then spread to other continents as the human population expanded.

They discovered at an archaeological site in Armenia that these types of tools already existed there between 325,000 and 335,000 years ago, suggesting that local populations developed them out of a more basic type of technology, known as biface, which was also found at the site.

Dr Simon Blockley and Dr Alison MacLeod, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, analysed volcanic material that preserved the archaeological site in the village of Nor Geghi, in the Kotayk Province of Armenia. By employing innovative procedures developed at Royal Holloway, they extracted suitable material to help date the Levallois tools.

"The discovery of thousands of stone artefacts preserved at this unique site provides a major new insight into how Stone Age tools developed during a period of profound human behavioural and biological change", said Dr Blockley. "The people who lived there 325,000 years ago were much more innovative than previously thought, using a combination of two different technologies to make tools that were extremely important for the mobile hunter-gatherers of the time.

"Our findings challenge the theory held by many archaeologists that Levallois technology was invented in Africa and spread to Eurasia as the human population expanded. Due to our ability to accurately date the site in Armenia, we now have the first clear evidence that this significant development in human innovation occurred independently within different populations."

Reassessment of Mosasaurus gracilis From Turonian Cretaceous England

Reassessment of Turonian mosasaur material from the ‘Middle Chalk’ (England, U.K.), and the status of Mosasaurus gracilis Owen, 1849


Street et al


The first described genus of mosasaur, Mosasaurus hoffmannii, has been coarsely diagnosed and defined since its creation, with numerous specimens and new species being assigned to the genus with little or no reference to, and thus few real similarities with, the generic type specimen. One of the earliest examples of a weakly defined and diagnosed species assigned to the genus is Mosasaurus gracilis. Location and examination of the various assigned specimens and the holotype indicate that M. gracilis shares more characters, such as a short rostrum on the dentary anterior to the first teeth, with russellosaurine mosasaurs. In addition, M. gracilis is known from Turonian deposits, whereas other species belonging to Mosasaurus are upper Campanian–Maastrichtian in age. Based on the evidence of shared characters and contemporaneity, we suggest that M. gracilis be removed from Mosasaurus because it shares more affinities with members of the Russellosaurina. This represents the first step in the very necessary process of untangling the alpha taxonomy, and subsequently the complete systematics, of the genus Mosasaurus hoffmannii.

Evidence Temnospodyl Micromelerpeton Regenerated Limbs From Gzhelian Pennsylvanian Carboniferous

Early evolution of limb regeneration in tetrapods: evidence from a 300-million-year-old amphibian


Fröbisch et al


Salamanders are the only tetrapods capable of fully regenerating their limbs throughout their entire lives. Much data on the underlying molecular mechanisms of limb regeneration have been gathered in recent years allowing for new comparative studies between salamanders and other tetrapods that lack this unique regenerative potential. By contrast, the evolution of animal regeneration just recently shifted back into focus, despite being highly relevant for research designs aiming to unravel the factors allowing for limb regeneration. We show that the 300-million-year-old temnospondyl amphibian Micromelerpeton, a distant relative of modern amphibians, was already capable of regenerating its limbs. A number of exceptionally well-preserved specimens from fossil deposits show a unique pattern and combination of abnormalities in their limbs that is distinctive of irregular regenerative activity in modern salamanders and does not occur as variants of normal limb development. This demonstrates that the capacity to regenerate limbs is not a derived feature of modern salamanders, but may be an ancient feature of non-amniote tetrapods and possibly even shared by all bony fish. The finding provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of regenerative capacity of paired appendages in vertebrates in the search for conserved versus derived molecular mechanisms of limb regeneration.

Ordovician Trilobites From Argentina

Early Ordovician trilobites from the Nazareno Area, northwestern Argentina


Tortello et al


The upper part of the Santa Rosita Formation (Ordovician, Tremadocian) in the Nazareno area, Cordillera Oriental, northwestern Argentina, records the vertical passage of high-energy, shallow water platform environments to offshore settings. Eighteen trilobite species are described from this locality for the first time. Although the taxa from the lower part of the succession (Leptoplastides sp., Asaphellus sp.) are scarce and non-age diagnostic, those from the upper part include diverse assemblages partially assigned to the late Tremadocian Notopeltis orthometopa Zone. Systematic descriptions of several species (Geragnostus nesossii Harrington and Leanza, G. callaveiformis Harrington and Leanza, Asaphellus jujuanus Harrington, Notopeltis orthometopa [Harrington], Mekynophrys nanna Harrington, Ceratopyge forficuloides Harrington and Leanza, Apatokephalus tibicen Přibyl and Vanĕk) are improved, the genus Nileus Dalman (including N. australis n. sp.) is first reported from the Tremadocian of western Gondwana, and new species of Asaphellus Callaway (A. nazarenensis n. sp.), Conophrys Callaway, and Apatokephalus Brøgger are described. The trilobites have their closest affinities with faunas from Norway and Sweden. Notopeltis orthometopa and Mekynophrys nanna are restricted to the uppermost part of the succession, well above the first records of most other trilobites recognized.

California's Drought Tied to Climate Change, Could be Very Frequent in the Future

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists say.

In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

The research, published on Sept. 29 as a supplement to this month's issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and California's ongoing drought.

"Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region—which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California—is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," said Diffenbaugh, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion, and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency, and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as "natural disaster areas."

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly stubborn "blocking ridge" over the northeastern Pacific –popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or "Triple R"–that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere. "Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure," said Daniel Swain, a graduate student in Diffenbaugh's lab and lead author of the study. "We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months now, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry."

Blocking ridges occur periodically at temperature latitudes, but the Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity. While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned even stronger by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, which is normally California's "wet season." "At its peak in January 2014, the Triple R extended from the subtropical Pacific between California and Hawaii to the coast of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska," said Swain, who coined the term "ridiculously resilient ridge" last fall to highlight the unusually persistent nature of the offshore blocking ridge.

Like a large boulder that has tumbled into a narrow stream, the Triple R diverted the flow of high-speed air currents known as the jet stream far to the north, causing Pacific storms to bypass not only California, but also Oregon and Washington. As a result, rain and snow that would normally fall on the West Coast were instead re-routed to Alaska and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

An important question for scientists and decision-makers has been whether human-caused climate change has influenced the conditions responsible for California's drought. Given the important role of the Triple R, Diffenbaugh's team set out to measure the probability of such extreme ridging events. The team first assessed the rarity of the Triple R in the context of the 20th century historical record. They found that the combined persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 was unrivaled by any event since 1948, which is when comprehensive information about the circulation of the atmosphere is first available.

To more directly address the question of whether climate change played a role in the probability of the 2013 event, the team collaborated with Bala Rajaratnam, assistant professor of Statistics and of Environmental Earth System Science, and an affiliated faculty of the Woods Institute for the Environment. Rajaratnam and his graduate students Michael Tsiang and Matz Haugen applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations. Using the Triple R as a benchmark, the group compared geopotential heights–an atmospheric property related to pressure– between two sets of climate model experiments. One set mirrored the present climate, in which the atmosphere is growing increasingly warm due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In the other set of experiments, greenhouse gases were kept at a level similar to those that existed just prior to the Industrial Revolution.

The interdisciplinary research team found that the extreme geopotential heights associated with the Triple R in 2013 were at least three times as likely to occur in the present climate as in the preindustrial climate. They also found that such extreme values are consistently tied to unusually low precipitation in California, and the formation of atmospheric ridges over the northeastern Pacific.

Japan Boosts Space Spending, esp Military Space

Japan’s Cabinet is asking the nation’s finance ministry for a 19.4 percent increase, to 327 billion yen ($3.05 billion), in space spending for the upcoming fiscal year to support projects that include a laser-optical data-relay satellite and a civilian Earth-observing satellite carrying a missile warning sensor as a hosted payload.

The request, which encompasses the space activity of 11 government ministries, also includes 13.7 billion yen to complete a seven-satellite Quasi Zenith regional navigation system and 13 billion yen for the next-generation H-3 launcher, scheduled for a 2020 debut, according to budget documents released by the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP), a part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet that is responsible for drafting space budgets.

Notably, however, the budget contains no funding for a proposed constellation of satellites for maritime domain awareness, although sources suggested that a number of new and ongoing satellite technology efforts could eventually feed into that program. The finance ministry in December rejected the ONSP’s 8 billion yen request for the Maritime Domain Awareness constellation for fiscal year 2014 on the grounds that it was poorly defined.

For the first time since 2009, the space budget request is being made separately from the defense ministry’s request for missile defense activities. When missile defense funding is included, the total request jumps to 358.4 billion yen, compared with 324.2 billion yen last year, for a total combined increase of 10.5 percent, according to ONSP figures.

Is China Really Still a Developing Country?

[China] has long sought to insulate the government from pressure to sign onto carbon dioxide curbs and emissions targets pushed by Europe and the United States. It sabotaged the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and stalled the 2010 conference in Cancun. At least the logic has been consistent: Because China's a developing country, the leadership in Beijing argues, its responsibilities -- and capabilities -- are far less than they would be otherwise. "As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change," said Zhang, in an address after Obama's speech, "and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our natural conditions."

But is China still a "developing" country?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ukraine: Frogs in Winter

Despite the fact the world's press seems to have largely moved on, the situation in Ukraine is far from over.

The heaviest fighting is at the Donetsk airport. The Ukrainian forces are holding on though I have to wonder about their supplies at this point. 9 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and an APC lost to tank fire. The Ukrainians claim to have killed 50 rebels in their two attacks.

Ukraine is not going to be ready for winter. Gas supplies are low. Russia cut off supplies earlier. Hungary just cut off the backflow into Ukraine as well as GazProm's insistence. The other flows they are getting are not enough and Ukraine will be in deep trouble. Expect deep trouble for Kiev's government as the temperature drops.

Russia has repeatedly voiced demands to modify the treaty between the EU and Ukraine. The EU came out and said 'no' finally.

Russia hs opened a criminal case against Ukraine? Government officials in it? for genocide against the Russian speaking portions of Ukraine, especially the Donbass. I can only groan over this one, but, well, not only that. I have to wonder what this is being developed as the pretext for though.

Japan has further strengthened sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine's economy is burnt toast. Russia's in going down the tubes as well: the claims are this is due to the sanctions.

Even so, Poroshenko has stated Ukraine will apply for membership in the European Union in 2020.

China Actively Courting Other Nations for its Upcoming Space Station

China is open to cooperation with foreign nations on its manned space station project, according to a senior space official.

"We reserved a number of platforms that can be used for international cooperative projects in our future space station when we designed it," Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency, said at a news conference following the opening ceremony of the 27th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers in Beijing on Wednesday.

"In addition to collaboration in applied experiments, we also designed adapters that can dock with other nations’ spacecraft," he said.

Butterfly Labs Case Updated: BFL Mined Bitcoin Using Customers' Rigs

A week ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shut down Butterfly Labs (BFL), one of the reasons for this being that “consumers who have purchased the machines or services cannot use them to generate Bitcoins because Defendants [Butterfly Labs] never provide them with the machines or services.” The FTC released new court filings today for its Butterfly Labs case. The most recent report by the FTC against Butterfly Labs is that they mined for bitcoins on their customers’ miners before shipping them (if they even shipped them at all), and didn’t tell the customer: Fraud.

The World's First 3d Printed Car

Henry Ford’s assembly line famously transformed the automobile industry in the 20th century – and a new company is hoping to bring about a similar revolution in the 21st, with its recently unveiled 3-D printed vehicle.

The company is Local Motors, designers of the Strati. The car was printed in about 44 hours on site earlier this month at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. In contrast to the thousands of components in a traditional vehicle, the Strati consists of fewer than 50 parts. Most of its body is built from extruded plastic of the kind that Lego bricks are made of.

That makes it both drastically simpler, and potentially cheaper in the future, than conventional cars. “If this works, even a little, it will reform parts or all of the industry,” Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers told Fox News.

My Son the Builder

US Marines Embracing Logistics Robopocalypse: Testing Unmanned Convoy Technologies

It probably won’t look like Google’s self-driving Prius, but the Marine Corps will soon get a hybrid-electric unmanned prototype vehicle as driverless technology gets more tactical.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory will build that prototype in 2016, said David Dahn, project officer for the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, the lab’s driverless vehicle project. It’s one of many developments planned to increase Marines’ tactical advantage as autonomous vehicle technology gets smarter and more capable.

The diesel-electric hybrid requirement came after the Advanced Warfighting Experiment at Rim of the Pacific in Hawaii, where Marines got to test out the GUSS system on a Polaris off-road vehicle — a cross between a tactical golf cart and a four-wheeler — during various exercises.

“One of the complaints we got from the Marines all the time: it’s diesel engines, too loud,” Dahn said. “These are dismounted forces; they just want to be off in the jungle. They don’t want a lot of noise going on and when you’ve got a diesel vehicle within 100 yards of you, it makes it a little bit difficult to be stealthy.”

In the coming year, the lab will also work to refine the system’s towing and backing capabilities, possibly adding a third sensor to the rear of the vehicle to improve its “sight” when it hits reverse. In an upcoming limited technical assessment next year, Dahn said lab personnel will also work to improve how the system characterizes and classifies terrain through multispectral imagery.

Budget cuts mean fewer dollars to invest, but with a lighter footprint and planning for distributed missions, the Marine Corps could benefit from driverless vehicles, said John Bryant, senior vice president of Defense Programs at Oshkosh Defense. Oshkosh’s TerraMax unmanned ground vehicle technology has been in development for years and is now so sophisticated it’s impossible to tell there’s no driver behind the wheel, he said.

“You don’t need a convoy full of people to handle a logistics convoy,” Bryant said. “You could supply a remotely stationed outpost with nobody in the convoy. You could have remote units leave their vehicles somewhere, engaged in a fight and a raid or reconnaissance and then call the vehicles up to meet them. It allows so much flexibility for the warfighter.”

One of the greatest challenges with the technology, Bryant said, is convincing troops to trust that it works.

Office of Naval Research Testing Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Air Defense Laser

The Office of Naval Research is testing a solid-state, vehicle-mounted laser weapon designed to incinerate a range of air and ground targets such as enemy drones, rockets and even IEDs, service officials told Military​.com.

“Air defense covers rockets, artillery, mortars, UAVs, vehicles and IEDs – anything you can kill with a laser. This program is focused on going after the UAV threat. As we move into the future that broader threat set is fair game,” said Lee Mastroianni, program manager for the so-called Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move Program, or GBAD,

Using volumetric radar, command and control systems and a laser kill platform, the GBAD is a small, compact mobile weapons system designed to integrate onto a HMMWV or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, said Mastroianni.
The GBAD is being prepared for a 10-kilowatt laser weapon demonstration in February of next year, Mastroianni explained.

Upcoming demonstrations are likely to be held at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., China Lake, Calif., or White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“We’ve already done a demo detecting the passing of information to the laser kill platform and tracking and targeting,” he said. “In February we will be doing an end-to-end demonstration using surrogate technologies.
“As we move into 2016 and 2017, we’ll be working with our objective laser of 30-kilowatts and moving toward actual on-the-move targets. We will move around the battlespace to identify, track and mitigate the targets.”

The ONR research and development program for the GBAD is slated to finish up by 2017 in order to transition the effort to the Marine Corps. At this point, the plans are to then move the program into an Engineering Manufacturing and Development, or EMD, acquisition phase before heading toward formal production and delivery for operational use.

/Orbitally/ Forced Sea Level Changes During the Turonian/Coniacian Cretaceous?!

Orbitally forced sea-level changes in the upper Turonian–lower Coniacian of the Tethyan Himalaya, southern Tibet


Chen et al


Although the mid-Cretaceous is considered to be a typical interval of greenhouse climate and high sea level, cooling events associated with regressions were inferred in recent years. We conducted a biostratigraphic, chemostratigraphic, sequence stratigraphic and cyclostratigraphic investigation of upper Turonian–lower Coniacian marine strata in the Tethyan Himalaya zone, to retrace the sea-level variations and to clarify their global correlations. According to the planktonic foraminiferal zonation, the studied interval is part of the late Turonian–early Coniacian Marginoruncana sigali and D. concavata Zones. The carbon isotope curve shows a good correlation to reference curves in the Boreal and western Tethys realms with all major and minor late Turonian δ13C events identified, indicating that the C-isotope curve provides an excellent tool for global stratigraphic correlation in the Turonian. Based on the lithological variations of clastic input and physical and chemical proxies, the succession is divided into two third order and eight fourth order sequences. Spectral analysis indicates that fourth order sea-level changes were linked to the astronomically stable 405-kyr eccentricity cycle. Comparison with classic global sea-level curves, we suggest that late Turonian–early Coniacian sea-level changes along the southeastern Tethyan margin were controlled by eustasy. The significant regressions during ∼90–89.8 Ma and ∼92–91.4 Ma, which are recorded in different continents, may be interpreted as the result of continental ice expansion, giving some support to the notion that ephemeral polar ice sheets existed even in the super-greenhouse world.

Oceanic Tidal Heating in the Icy Moons is Significant

Comparative estimates of the heat generated by ocean tides on icy satellites in the outer Solar System




This study illuminates scenarios whereby the heat produced by the dissipation of ocean tides is significant in the heat budgets maintaining liquid oceans on icy satellites in the outer Solar System. It has been shown in previous work that ocean tides, if resonantly forced, can supply heat at or exceeding the rates necessary for maintaining these oceans. It has also been shown that because of feedbacks these resonant configurations may be unavoidable under typical situations. This study extends from the previous work and seeks to examine the full set of dynamically-consistent ocean tidal solutions to describe the parameter dependencies that may cause one ocean to become trapped in such a vigorous ocean state while allowing another to freeze—why do some of these satellites have oceans, and others do not? It is found that even with no other sources of heat, a liquid ocean on many of these satellites would be maintained by ocean tidal heat because the process of freezing (which changes the thickness of the remaining liquid ocean and thereby the eigenmodes) would push the ocean into a resonant configuration, with the associated increase in heat production preventing further freezing and stabilizing the configuration. An ocean on Io or Mimas would suffer extreme tides (with heat generated exceeding 1 W/m2) unless an implausibly large volume of water were present to lift the eigenmodes of the configuration out of resonance with the tidal forces. Europa can maintain a thick (∼∼100 km) ocean due to an obliquity-forced tidal resonance, while parameters for most other satellites suggest eccentricity-driven resonance scenarios involving much thinner ocean thicknesses (1-10’s km). But these thin ocean thickness in the latter scenarios will be altered by ice cover: As the ice cover damps the ocean tidal response, significant heat is still generated which would stall freezing but the ocean thicknesses are modified to larger values than would be expected without ice cover.

Environment First Northern European Settlement by Homo sapiens sapiens Colonized was a Cold Steppe

Early modern human settlement of Europe north of the Alps occurred 43,500 years ago in a cold steppe-type environment


Nigst et al


The first settlement of Europe by modern humans is thought to have occurred between 50,000 and 40,000 calendar years ago (cal B.P.). In Europe, modern human remains of this time period are scarce and often are not associated with archaeology or originate from old excavations with no contextual information. Hence, the behavior of the first modern humans in Europe is still unknown. Aurignacian assemblages—demonstrably made by modern humans—are commonly used as proxies for the presence of fully behaviorally and anatomically modern humans. The site of Willendorf II (Austria) is well known for its Early Upper Paleolithic horizons, which are among the oldest in Europe. However, their age and attribution to the Aurignacian remain an issue of debate. Here, we show that archaeological horizon 3 (AH 3) consists of faunal remains and Early Aurignacian lithic artifacts. By using stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and chronological data, AH 3 is ascribed to the onset of Greenland Interstadial 11, around 43,500 cal B.P., and thus is older than any other Aurignacian assemblage. Furthermore, the AH 3 assemblage overlaps with the latest directly radiocarbon-dated Neanderthal remains, suggesting that Neanderthal and modern human presence overlapped in Europe for some millennia, possibly at rather close geographical range. Most importantly, for the first time to our knowledge, we have a high-resolution environmental context for an Early Aurignacian site in Central Europe, demonstrating an early appearance of behaviorally modern humans in a medium-cold steppe-type environment with some boreal trees along valleys around 43,500 cal B.P.

Jaggermeryx naida: a new Miocene Neogene Anthracothere From Egypt

Anthracotheres from Wadi Moghra, early Miocene, Egypt


Miller et al


The early Miocene site of Wadi Moghra, Qattara Depression, Egypt, is important for interpreting anthracothere (Mammalia, Artiodactyla) evolution, because the Moghra sediments preserve a higher diversity of anthracotheres than any other pene-contemporaneous site. New specimens from Moghra are described and form the basis for the systematic revision of Moghra anthracotheres provided here. Among the important discoveries recently made at Moghra is the first complete skull of Sivameryx moneyi. Other new specimens described here include two new species of Afromeryx, and a new genus and species, all of which are unique to Moghra. A review of biogeographic information supports the conclusion that three of the Moghra anthracotheres (Brachyodus depereti, B. mogharensis, and Jaggermeryx naida, n. gen. n. sp.) are members of late surviving lineages with a long history in Africa, while three other species (Afromeryx grex, n. sp., A. palustris, n. sp., and Sivameryx moneyi) represent more recent immigrants from Eurasia.

Using Mercury Isotopes to Determine Volcanic or Meterorite Source for Mass Extinctions

High-resolution Hg chemostratigraphy: A contribution to the distinction of chemical fingerprints of the Deccan volcanism and Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary impact event


Sial et al


There is a renewed interest in volcanism as the major trigger for dramatic climatic changes at the Cretaceous–Paleogene transition (KTB), which were accompanied by a decrease in biodiversity and mass extinction. We have used Hg contents as proxy for volcanic activity at the classical localities of Gubbio (Italy) and Stevns Klint (Denmark) where the KTB layer is easily recognizable, and at a near-complete succession exposed at the Bajada del Jagüel locality in the Neuquén Basin, Argentina. These three localities display similar δ13Ccarb trends with markedly negative excursion at the KTB layer. Bulk-rock oxygen isotopes yielded similar pathways across the KTB layers in these localities and, if considered near-primary, the negative δ18O excursion at the KTB in Gubbio and Bajada del Jagüel suggest warming temperatures during this transition, whereas the negative excursion immediately followed by positive one at Stevns Klint points to a cycle of warm followed by colder climate. At Stevns Klint, Hg contents reach 250 ng g− 1 within the KTB layer (Fiskeler Member) and 45 ng.g− 1 at 1.5 m above that, while within the Scaglia Rossa Formation at Gubbio, three Hg peaks across the KTB are observed, one of them within the KTB layer (5.3 ng g− 1). Hg shows several peaks across the KTB in the Neuquén Basin, with up to 400 ng g− 1 in the Jagüel Formation. The phenomena that caused dramatic changes at the KTB probably expelled huge amounts of Hg into the atmosphere as recorded by these high Hg levels. A co-variation between Hg and Al2O3 in the studied sections suggest that Hg is adsorbed onto clays. Hg concentrations and also Hg isotopes are perhaps a powerful tool in the assessment of the role of volcanic activity during extreme climatic and biotic events, and in assessing the role of meteorite impact versus volcanism as the predominant cause of past global catastrophes and mass extinction.

Ordovician Trilobites From Greenland

Early Ordovician (Skullrockian) trilobites of the Antiklinalbugt Formation, northeast Greenland, and their biostratigraphic significance


McCobb et al


The Antiklinalbugt Formation of northeast Greenland comprises peritidal to subtidal carbonate sediments, deposited in shallow shelf settings during an early Tremadocian transgressive-regressive megacycle. The succession of shales and microbial, muddy and grainy limestone, with minor dolostone at the base and top, terminates at the cryptic Fimbulfjeld disconformity. The formation has yielded trilobites collected on Ella Ø, Albert Heim Bjerge, and Kap Weber by C. Poulsen (1920s and 1930s), J. W. Cowie and P. J. Adams (1950s), and during recent field studies in 2000 and 2001. The fauna includes dimeropygids Tulepyge cowiei and T. tesella n. spp., hystricurids Millardicurus and Hystricurus, and several species of Symphysurina. Micragnostus chiushuensis (Kobayashi, 1931) is rare, as are Chasbellus sp., Clelandia sp., and Lunacrania?. The presence of several Symphysurina species places the Antiklinalbugt Formation within the Symphysurina Zone. Chasbellus indicates the upper (lower Ordovician) part of the Symphysurina Zone for the lower upper Antiklinalbugt Formation. Conodonts place the middle lower formation in the Cordylodus intermedius conodont Biozone, the lower upper part in the Cordylodus angulatus conodont Biozone and the uppermost part in the Rossodus manitouensis conodont Biozone. This combined fauna is characteristic of the upper Skullrockian Stage of the Ibexian Series, with the lower part of the Antiklinalbugt Formation lying within the uppermost Cambrian of North America, and the upper part within the lower Ordovician. The entire formation lies within the global Tremadocian Stage of the early Ordovician.

2014 the 6th Lowest Arctic Sea Ice Level Measured

Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year's minimum extent is similar to last year's and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles (6.22 million square km).

"Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978. The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting," said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be," Meier said. "It's more susceptible to melting."

This summer, the Northwest Passage above Canada and Alaska remained ice-bound. A finger of open water stretched north of Siberia in the Laptev Sea, reaching beyond 85 degrees north, which is the farthest north open ocean has reached since the late 1970s, according to Meier.

Israel Close to Purchasing More F-35s

The Pentagon's Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II programme office is close to signing a deal with Israel for more stealthy combat aircraft, the programme manager said on 25 September.

"We are in discussion with another one of our partners, Israel, to increase their buy and those discussions are going very, very well," said US Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan.

"We are very, very close," Lt Gen Bogdan said in Oslo following a meeting with partner nations on the programme. He added that the new agreement with Israel will be signed "probably within the next few months". Israel has already ordered 19 aircraft.

In Order to Form an Ever More Germanic Union...

THE European Union, it is often said, long served to disguise both French weakness and German strength. It magnified France’s unabashed pursuit of its national interests and allowed Germany to pretend it did not have any. But the euro crisis has shifted power decisively to Angela Merkel’s Germany, dispelling the illusion. The recent allocation of top jobs may have killed it.

This is not apparent at first glance. No German has secured a big post (barring Martin Schulz, who stays as president of the European Parliament). This week Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming president of the European Commission, doled out various jobs to the individuals nominated by their national governments. Günther Oettinger, the German, was put in charge of the “digital economy and society”: hardly a dazzling portfolio for a man from the club’s largest and richest member (although, of course, Mr Juncker insists that commissioners leave their passports at the door). Mr Oettinger’s work will also be overseen by a vice-president: Andrus Ansip, from tiny Estonia.

But German influence may be detected in subtler form. The best example is the economic and financial affairs commissioner. Since the euro crisis erupted it has fallen to this person to act as a fiscal watchdog, telling off euro-zone countries who fail to abide by their budget commitments. The job has been performed with gusto by two austere Finns who have held the post since 2010, acting, says one official, “as surrogate Germans”.

Friday, September 26, 2014

J-31 Mockup Spotted on Chinese Aircraft Carrier Replica


That settles that: J-31 Stealth Fighter is a People's Liberation Army Navy aircraft.

China Upset India Beat it to Mars

Mars receives two visitors from the Earth this week.

NASA's new spacecraft MAVEN entered the orbit around Mars on Sept. 21 to hunt for the planet's lost water. And India's first Mars probe has reached Mars on Sept. 24, said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adding that India is the first country to have reached the Red Planet on its first attempt.

After China's successful soft landing on the moon late last year, will Mars be its next goal? No official plan has been published yet, but some experts have disclosed the country's interest.

Ouyang Ziyuan, a leading scientist in China's moon program, told the International Planetarium Society conference in Beijing in June that China plans to send a Mars rover around 2020, collect samples and bring them back to Earth around 2030.

Russia launched a rocket carrying a China-made probe to Mars in 2011, but the mission failed because of an accident in the orbital transfer.

Ye Peijian, a leading design adviser for China's Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 moon probes, has called repeatedly during the annual sessions of the national legislature and political advisory body for an early start of a Mars exploration mission.

"India has gone ahead of us," Ye says.

Is China capable of probing Mars? Many experts are confident.

With current technologies, China could send a probe to orbit and land on Mars in one mission, Ye says.

"We already lag behind (India) in time, so we should do it better," Ye says.

US Military Looking into Cryptocurrency Links to Terrorism

The United States military is studying digital currencies like bitcoin to learn if they can be traced and to figure out how they are used by America's adversaries around the world.

CNBC has learned that the global policy counsel of the Bitcoin Foundation flew to Florida to meet with officials from U.S. Special Operations Command for a daylong discussion Monday on the role of so-called cryptocurrencies—of which bitcoin is the best known—in illicit finance.

The first-of-its-kind discussion came just as U.S. warplanes began flying missions over Syria in President Barack Obama's effort to check the advance of the Islamic terror network ISIS. A key priority for the U.S. military is stopping the flow of money to ISIS fighters and blocking the network's ability to process profits from kidnapping, extortion and illicit oil sales.

The military's interest in virtual currency is part of an overall effort by special operations forces to understand how their enemies finance themselves, and what intelligence special operators can glean by following the illicit money.

The Robopocalypse has Come for the Videographer/Photographer

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking its first major step toward opening up the skies for commercial drone use, allowing six TV and movie production companies to use drones to shoot video.

Commercial flight of drones has been effectively banned by the FAA as it grapples with how to integrate drone traffic into controlled airspace while not compromising the safety of existing air traffic. But as the months have passed, it has come under increasing pressure from U.S. companies to make a ruling.

Online retailer Amazon.com has been one of the most vocal, warning that it would take development of parcel-delivery drones overseas if the FAA doesn’t allow commercial use soon, and numerous other companies in the movie production, agriculture, environmental and energy industries have also been lobbying to allow their drones to fly.

“There has been a lot of interest around this technology recently,” said U.S. Department of Transport Secretary Anthony Foxx, recognizing the role the pressure played in reviewing the issues.

Foxx was speaking on a telephone conference call with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta where they announced that limited use of drone technology wouldn’t pose a problem to existing users of airspace.

Thursday’s deal with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will allow six companies to operate drones over controlled areas of movie and TV sets. The drones will be flown by licensed pilots and won’t fly at night, and details of any accidents will have to be filed with the FAA.

A seventh production company has applied to the FAA and its application is under review.

Managing the Robopocalypse: The Case for a a Federal Robotics Commission

The U.S. Department of Transportation had a problem: Toyota customers were alleging that their vehicle had accelerated unexpectedly, causing death or injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found some mechanical problems that may have accounted for the accidents—specifically, a design flaw that enabled accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats—but other experts suspected a software issue was to blame. Like most contemporary vehicles, Toyotas rely on computers to control many elements of the car. Congress was worried enough at the prospect of glitches in millions of vehicles that it directed the DOT to look for electronic causes.

NHTSA lacked the expertise to disentangle the complex set of interactions between software and hardware “under the hood.” The agency struggled over what to do until it hit upon an idea: let’s ask NASA. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration builds semi-autonomous systems and sends them to other planets; it has deep expertise in complex software and hardware. Indeed, NASA was able to clear Toyota’s software in a February 2011 report.1 “We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems,” proudly stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, “and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas."2

Under extraordinary circumstances, the best and brightest at NASA can take a break from repairing space stations or building Mars robots to take a look at the occasional Toyota. But this is not a sustainable strategy in the long run. Physical systems that sense, process, and act upon the world—robots, in other words3—are increasingly commonplace. Google, Tesla, and others contemplate widespread driverless cars using software far more complex than what runs in a 2010 sedan. Amazon would like to deliver packages to our homes using autonomous drones. Bill Gates predicts a robot in every home.4 By many accounts, robotics and artificial intelligence are poised to become the next transformative technology of our time.

US Marine Corps Testing MUTT Unmanned Ground Vehicle

The Marine Corps is testing a tethered unmanned vehicle designed to follow human movement, carry supplies and perform a wide range of possible missions for forces on-the-move, industry officials said Sept. 24 at the Corps’ Modern Day Marine symposium, Quantico, Va.

General Dynamics Land Systems has developed the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, or MUTT – a 54-inch wide, five-foot long, 750-pound four-wheeled amphibious unmanned vehicle engineered to help dismounted infantry units.

The MUTT, which can drive on wheels or tracks, can transport on-board an MV-22 Osprey, developers said.

“MUTT can help lighten the load. It can perform casualty evacuations and it can carry counter-IED components or communications packages. It is really multi-utility,” said John Rash, business development, General Dynamics Land Systems.

The Marine Corps recently conducted operations with two MUTTs at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Rash added. One of the MUTTs carried communications equipment and the other helped lighten the load for dismounted Marines by carrying supplies.

Two F-35Cs to Deploy to USS Nimitz for Testing in November: one may not really be ready for carrier flights

Plans to test a Lockheed Martin F-35C aboard a US aircraft carrier in November are on track, but both aircraft scheduled to deploy to the Pacific may not be capable of taking off and landing from the ship.

The C-model F-35 will be the US Navy’s carrier-based version of the jet and will be the last to enter service in 2018, following the Marine Corps and air force variants. Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan, speaking at a meeting of the programme’s joint executive steering board in Oslo, Norway, said the deployment to the USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean was on track despite lagging software development and flight restrictions resulting from a June engine fire that damaged an F-35A prior to a training flight.

However, work is ongoing to determine if both aircraft slated to deploy will be fully capable of performing carrier launches and landings, Bogdan says.

“We have some work to do as we lead up to that point in November,” he says. “That work we’re doing now will decide whether both airplanes that go to the ship will be capable of doing arrestments and catapult launches or only one of them will be and the other airplane we will leave on the deck to do logistics testing.”

“The November deployment will happen. It will most likely happen with two airplanes. Whether both airplanes will be fully capable of doing all the work remains to be seen,” he says.

Procyonids Dispersed Twice From North America to South America Prior to the Great American Biotic Interchange

Carnivorans at the Great American Biotic Interchange: new discoveries from the northern neotropics


Forasiepi et al


We report two fossil procyonids, Cyonasua sp. and Chapalmalania sp., from the late Pliocene of Venezuela (Vergel Member, San Gregorio Formation) and Colombia (Ware Formation), respectively. The occurrence of these pre-Holocene procyonids outside Argentina and in the north of South America provides further information about the Great American Biotic Interchange (GABI). The new specimens are recognized in the same monophyletic group as procyonids found in the southern part of the continent, the “Cyonasua group,” formed by species of Cyonasua and Chapalmalania. The phylogenetic analysis that includes the two new findings support the view that procyonids dispersed from North America in two separate events (initially, previous to the first major migration wave—GABI 1—and then within the last major migration wave—GABI 4—). This involved reciprocal lineage migrations from North to South America, and included the evolution of South American endemic forms.

Titan's Methane Clouds are due to Circulation Between Poles

Subsidence-induced methane clouds in Titan’s winter polar stratosphere and upper troposphere


Anderson et al


Titan’s atmospheric methane most likely originates from lakes at the surface and subsurface reservoirs. Accordingly, it has been commonly assumed that Titan’s tropopause region, where the vertical temperature profile is a minimum, acts as a cold trap for convecting methane, leading to the expectation that the formation of methane clouds in Titan’s stratosphere would be rare. The additional assumption that Titan’s tropopause temperatures are independent of latitude is also required. However, Cassini Composite InfraRed Spectrometer (CIRS) and Radio Science Subsystem (RSS) data sets reveal colder temperatures in Titan’s tropopause region near the winter pole than those at low latitudes and in the summer hemisphere. This, combined with the presence of a cross-equatorial meridional circulation with winter polar subsidence, as suggested by current general circulation models, implies the inevitable formation of Subsidence-Induced Methane Clouds (SIMCs) over Titan’s winter pole. We verified this by retrieving the stratospheric methane mole fraction at 70°°N from the strength of the far infrared methane pure rotation lines observed by CIRS and by assuming the RSS-derived thermal profile at 74.1°°N. Our retrieved methane mole fraction of 1.50 ±± 0.15% allows for methane to condense and form SIMCs at altitudes between 48 and ∼∼20 km. Radiative transfer analyses of a color composite image obtained by the Cassini Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) during northern winter appear to corroborate the existence of these clouds.

Human Female Populations Have Been Larger Than Male Throughout Human Genetic History

Female populations have been larger than male populations throughout human history, according to research published today in the open access journal Investigative Genetics. The research used a new technique to obtain higher quality paternal genetic information to analyse the demographic history of males and females in worldwide populations.

The study compared the paternally-inherited Y chromosome (NRY) with maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 623 males from 51 populations. The analysis showed that female populations were larger before the out-of-Africa migration and remained so throughout almost all subsequent migrations. The main drivers of this trend are likely to be processes such as polygyny, where one male mates with many females, and the fact that in most societies, women tend to move to live with their husbands. This has resulted in females making a greater genetic contribution to the global population than males.

Glyptodontoid Panochthus From Pleistocene Quaternary Brazil Reappraised

The intertropical Brazilian species of Panochthus (Xenarthra, Cingulata, Glyptodontoidea): a reappraisal of their taxonomy and phylogenetic affinities


Porpino et al


Four species of Panochthus (P. greslebini, P. jaguaribensis, P. oliveira-roxoi, and P. rochai) have been described from the late Pleistocene of northeastern Brazil. P. oliveira-roxoi, and P. rochai have been considered loosely as synonyms of P. greslebini. This paper reevaluates the referred material, diagnostic characters, and validity of these species and includes a cladistic analysis of 25 caudal tube and carapace characters to determine their positioning relative to other species of Panochthus. P. greslebini and P. jaguaribensis are valid species and differ from the other species of Panochthus by unique combinations of caudal tube characters. Carapace fragments previously attributed to P. jaguaribensis are in fact fragments of cephalic shields. These fragments and the isolated ostoderms previously described for P. jaguaribensis cannot be confidently assigned to this species. We support the interpretation of P. rochai as a junior synonym of P. greslebini, but P. oliveira-roxoi is actually a nomen dubium instead of a synonym of P. greslebini. Our analysis yielded a fully resolved tree in which Panochthini, as traditionally defined, is paraphyletic and the species formerly attributed to Panochthus form a monophyletic group, echoing recent findings based on a different dataset. Within Panochthus, the Brazilian species form a clade with the Bonaerian species P. subintermedius, which is the sister species to P. greslebini. Instead of a more basal position suggested in early and recent works, P. jaguaribensis is deeply nested within the clade encompassing the species of Panochthus.

Evidence From French Rhaetian Triassic Ichthyosaurs Experienced Severe Turnover From the Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction

Ichthyosaurs from the French Rhaetian indicate a severe turnover across the Triassic–Jurassic boundary


Fischer et al


Mesozoic marine reptiles went through a severe turnover near the end of the Triassic. Notably, an important extinction event affected ichthyosaurs, sweeping a large part of the group. This crisis is, however, obscured by an extremely poor fossil record and is regarded as protracted over the entire Norian–earliest Jurassic interval, for the lack of a more precise scenario. The iconic whale-sized shastasaurid ichthyosaurs are regarded as early victims of this turnover, disappearing by the middle Norian. Here we evaluate the pattern of this turnover among ichthyosaurs by analysing the faunal record of two Rhaetian localities. One locality is Autun, eastern France; we rediscovered in this material the holotypes or partial ‘type’ series of Rachitrema pellati, Actiosaurus gaudryi, Ichthyosaurus rheticus, Ichthyosaurus carinatus and Plesiosaurus bibractensis; a revised taxonomic scheme is proposed. The second assemblage comes from a new locality: Cuers, southeastern France. Both these assemblages provide several lines of evidence for the presence of shastasaurid-like ichthyosaurs in the Rhaetian of Europe. These occurrences suggest that both the demise of shastasaurids and the sudden radiation of neoichthyosaurians occurred within a short time window; this turnover appears not only more abrupt but also more complex than previously postulated and adds a new facet of the end-Triassic mass extinction.

Evidence Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Doushantuo Embryo Fossils may be Stem-Group Animals

Cell differentiation and germ–soma separation in Ediacaran animal embryo-like fossils


Chen et al


Phosphorites of the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (~600 million years old) yield spheroidal microfossils with a palintomic cell cleavage pattern. These fossils have been variously interpreted as sulphur-oxidizing bacteria, unicellular protists4, mesomycetozoean-like holozoans green algae akin to Volvox and blastula embryos of early metazoans or bilaterian animals. However, their complete life cycle is unknown and it is uncertain whether they had a cellularly differentiated ontogenetic stage, making it difficult to test their various phylogenetic interpretations. Here we describe new spheroidal fossils from black phosphorites of the Doushantuo Formation that have been overlooked in previous studies. These fossils represent later developmental stages of previously published blastula-like fossils, and they show evidence for cell differentiation, germ–soma separation, and programmed cell death. Their complex multicellularity is inconsistent with a phylogenetic affinity with bacteria, unicellular protists, or mesomycetozoean-like holozoans. Available evidence also indicates that the Doushantuo fossils are unlikely crown-group animals or volvocine green algae. We conclude that an affinity with cellularly differentiated multicellular eukaryotes, including stem-group animals or algae, is likely but more data are needed to constrain further the exact phylogenetic affinity of the Doushantuo fossils.

Pacific Island Nations Looking to Procure Land Elsewhere to Survive Inundation by Rising Seas

The president of the Pacific island state of Kiribati favors buying more land abroad after a purchase in Fiji, to secure both food supplies and perhaps a future home if rising sea levels swamp low-lying atolls.

Anote Tong, in Norway on a stopover to view melting Arctic ice pushing up sea levels before he attends a U.N. climate summit in New York on Tuesday, said he wanted to lay conditions for "migration with dignity" from the islands.

Kiribati, a nation of 100,000 people scattered over 32 Pacific atolls, completed a deal with Fiji this year to buy 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) of forest land for A$9.3 million ($8.3 million) on the island of Vanua Levu, he said.

"With sea level rise, the value of land will go up," Tong predicted in a weekend interview, nursing a cold from a visit to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. "I am not going to relocate my people, but someone else might" in coming decades.

"Some people have suggested 'why not (buy more land in) Australia and New Zealand, they are selling land to the Chinese?'," he said. "My view is 'yes' ... property poses the least risk" compared to other investments.


India Considering Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier as Follow-on to INS Vikrant

India is considering powering its second domestically built aircraft carrier with a nuclear propulsion plant, according to a Tuesday report by news agency Press Trust of India.

The design of the carrier is ongoing and nuclear power is still an option for the carrier, said Director General of Naval Design Bureau, Rear Admiral Atul Saxena, in response to questions from reporters.

India’s first domestically built carrier — the 40,000-ton INS Vikrant currently under construction in Cochin Shipyard in Southern India — will be powered by four General Electric LM-2500 gas turbines.

The second carrier Vishal is planned to be much larger — up to 65,000-tons — and is still in the conceptual design process, Saxena said.

Last year Indian officials said the two major decisions for the carrier were its power supply and launching and recovery methods for the planned Vishnal.

Though more technically complicated in design and construction stages, a nuclear powered carrier provides greater flexibility to commanders once in operation, Eric Wertheim, author of the Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News on Wednesday.

“Nuclear power frees up space,” he said.
“You don’t have to store fuel for your ship onboard.”

Nuclear carriers have more room for ammunition and fuel for aircraft on the ship and shedding the requirement for refueling the ship simplify the logistics of resupplying the carrier at sea.

However, it’s unclear if India can overcome the technical requirements to fielding a nuclear carrier.

Oh the Irony! Kaliningrad Seperatism now a Foreign Policy Issue

Statements by Lithuanian and Polish commentators about Kaliningrad and actions by the Russian authorities against activists in that non-contiguous Russian Federation exclave suggest that the issue of separatism there is an increasingly lively one even if the prospects for any change in its status are not great.

Hat tip Randy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mothers who do NOT Take Iron Supplements are 5x at Risk for Having Autistic Child, Older Mothers More

Mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.

Low iron intake was associated with a five-fold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child's birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity hypertension or diabetes.

The research is the first to examine the relationship between maternal iron intake and having a child with autism spectrum disorder, the authors said. The study, "Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders," is published online today in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"The association between lower maternal iron intake and increased ASD risk was strongest during breastfeeding, after adjustment for folic acid intake," said Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute.

The authors of the current study in 2011 were the first to report associations between supplemental folic acid and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorder, a finding later replicated in larger scale investigations.

"Further, the risk associated with low maternal iron intake was much greater when the mother was also older and had metabolic conditions during her pregnancy."

*cough*older mothers*cough*

Robopocalypse in Germany: DHL Experimenting With Delivery by Drone

German postal service DHL Parcel is to begin testing the delivery of supplies using its Parcelcopter unmanned air vehicle, marking the first operation of a UAV in European airspace beyond line of sight.

The company – owned by Deutsche Post – first flew the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Parcelcopter in December 2013, when it travelled across the river Rhine in Bonn.

DHL has been working alongside the institute of flight system dynamics at RWTH Aachen University and VTOL UAV manufacturer Microdrones, which derived the Parcelcopter from its md4-1000 system.

A restricted flight area for the UAV has been established by the German ministry of transport and digital infrastructure in coordination with Deutsche Flugsicherung – the company in charge of air traffic control in the country. This flightpath covers some 6.5nm (12km) of the North Sea from the city of Norden to the island of Juist.

The route will enable the team to test the UAV under harsh conditions. The testing is due to take place over “several months”, and each individual flight will be registered, according to the team.

The carbonfibre Parcelcopter can reach speeds of 35kt (65km/h) while 160ft above sea level. It will be used to deliver medication and urgent supplies to residents of the island during the test phase.

A Preview of the 3d Printed Future on TED

US Navy MQ-4C Triton set for 2017 Service Entry

The U.S. Navy’s newest and largest drone took another step last week towards its first operational deployment in 2017 after it completed a cross country flight to Patuxent River, Maryland, where engineers will complete more tests on the MQ-4C Triton.

Navy pilots flew the Triton at altitudes of 50,000 feet from Palmdale, California, along the U.S. southern border with Mexico and up the Atlantic Coast. The 3,290 nautical mile flight took 11 hours for the Triton to complete, Navy officials said.

Officials said the Triton will fly up to 2,000 hours before it’s deployed operationally at sea. The Navy has grand plans for the Triton once it enters operational service.

“We brought Triton home to the center of research, development, test and evaluation for naval aviation,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO (U&W)) at NAVAIR. “The testing performed here over the next few years is critical to delivering a capability that will provide our warfighter an unparalleled awareness of the maritime environment in locations across the globe.”

The aircraft, which boasts a 130-foot wingspan and can reach altitudes of 60,000 feet, is engineered as a long-endurance surveillance platform, meaning it can stay in the air as long at 30 hours on a single mission.

Navy admirals plan to use the Triton to offer better situational awareness across the large swaths of ocean the Navy’s fleets cover. Triton will feature advanced radars that will help carrier strike groups identify enemy threats.

The Triton’s next-generation radar, called the Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS), is a 360-degree radar capability optimized to provide the identification of surface ships over vast areas covering thousands of miles..

Korea's KFX Program Greatly Benefits From F-35 Purchase

In return for obtaining 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, South Korea will receive technologies related to its long-planned KFX indigenous fighter programme.

Following Lockheed’s announcement on 24 September that Seoul was on the verge of signing an order for 40 F-35s, state news agencyYonhapquoted a spokesman from South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) as saying that the F-35 technologies will play a key role in KFX.

Under the F-35 deal – which will cover deliveries to run between 2018 and 2021 – Lockheed will transfer key fighter technologies from “17 sectors”, he says.

The DAPA spokesman adds that Seoul will build 120 KFX aircraft for deployment from 2025. South Korean officials indicate the fighter will be a twin-engined design that is more capable than advanced versions of the Lockheed F-16, but less capable than leading Western fighters such as the F-35.

Technology transfer was a major consideration in Seoul’s pursuit of a replacement for its McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms and Northrop F-5s under its F-X III requirement, which was ultimately won by the F-35.

Industry sources say Lockheed, Boeing and Eurofighter all offered attractive technology transfer packages during the contest. Boeing offered an upgraded version of its F-15E, dubbed the Silent Eagle, while Eurofighter offered the Typhoon.

At last year’s Seoul lnternational Aerospace & Defense Exhibition, Korea Aerospace Industries, which will likely build the new jet, displayed two models of the KFX, both of which bore low-observable characteristics reminiscent of the F-35.

The aircraft will be developed with help from Indonesia, which is a 20% partner in the programme.