Friday, October 31, 2014

Yet Another Small Announcement

Another post reduction.  The posts after 6 pm and until 6 am are being discontinued.

Happy Halloween!

Quantum Entangled Particle Distribution via Satellite

Entanglement over global distances via quantum repeaters with satellite links


Boone et al


We study entanglement creation over global distances based on a quantum repeater architecture that uses low-earth orbit satellites equipped with entangled photon sources, as well as ground stations equipped with quantum non-demolition detectors and quantum memories. We show that this approach allows entanglement creation at viable rates over distances that are inaccessible via direct transmission through optical fibers or even from very distant satellites.

pop sci write up.

China, Russia Block Antarctic Marine Sanctuary Creation

China and Russia have thwarted an international attempt to create the world’s largest ocean sanctuary in Antarctica as both nations eye the region’s rich reserves of fish and krill.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) wound up a 10-day meeting in Hobart, Australia on Friday without the consensus needed for a deal to conserve and manage the marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean. While Russia blocked conservation proposals for a fourth consecutive time, China’s refusal to back the international plan came as a surprise to many delegates after previous statements of support for conservation and marine protection.

Ukraine, which previously took the same stance as Russia, this year voted in favor of the proposals.

"We had hoped to be able to create what would have been the largest marine-protected area in the world and had been working on that for several years," U.S. delegation leader Evan Bloom told Reuters.

The objective of the CCAMLR, which was established by international treaty in 1982, is the conservation of Antarctic marine life "whilst providing for rational use" that takes global food security into account.

The European Union and 24 nations are members of the consensus-based organization and a further 11 countries have signed its convention.

There were hopes for agreement at the meeting after Australia, France and the European Union offered to cut the size of a proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) in East Antarctica to 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) from 1.9 million square kilometers first proposed in 2011.

The other MPA proposal, submitted by New Zealand and the United States covers 1.3 million square kilometers in the Ross Sea. Together the two MPAs would have comprised the world’s largest marine sanctuary and set catch limits for krill, tooth fish and other finfish species.

China "challenged almost every conservation mandate that was presented" during the two weeks of talks, Andrea Kavanagh, a delegate and director of the pro-conservation Pew Charitable Trusts told Reuters. China was "an across the board conservation-spoiler" to the plan, she added.

F-35C set to Make First Carrier Landings Next Week

The naval variant of the tri-service Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter is set to land upon the deck of USS Nimitz (CVN-68) next week. Two of the single-engine F-35C stealth fighters are set to carry out a set of sea trials onboard the carrier to ensure that the jets can operate safely from the flight deck.

“They will fly on the third of November, and the first time that they touch the deck of the Nimitz will be with a trap,” Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program executive officer told reporters on Oct. 30.
“We’re not putting them on the ship with a crane.”

The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office is deploying test aircraft CF-3 and CF-5 to the carrier. The jets were set to arrive at Yuma, Arizona, from Fort Worth, Texas, on Oct. 30, Bogdan said. The two aircraft will be prepared for their trials at Yuma over the next “couple of days,” he added.

The two jets are fully instrumented and are cleared to operate with a full flight envelope, Bogdan said. Once onboard Nimitz, the jets will be run through the gamut of carrier operations.

F-35 IOC may be Delayed

When Sen. Kelly Ayotte and her supporters blocked retirement of the A-10 fleet it’s not likely they knew the F-35 program might suffer.

But that’s exactly what Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the huge F-35 program, told reporters this afternoon that will happen unless something changes.

In the conference room where the F-35 program makes its biggest decisions two signs mark the wall. They count down the days to Initial Operational Capability of the F-35 for the Marines and for the Air Force: 244 days for the Marines and 641 for the Air Force.

While the Marine date is still doable — though Bogdan concedes it will be tight — the Air Force date is the most threatened.

“Up until today, things were looking pretty good,” Bogdan told us.

For those who don’t follow this stuff on a regular basis, IOC means a military service believes the weapons it has bought are ready for use if needed.

C4 Vegetation Expanded During Pliocene/Pleistocene due to Fire

Late Pliocene–Pleistocene expansion of C4 vegetation in semiarid East Asia linked to increased burning


Zhou et al


Plants using the C4 photosynthetic pathway, commonly tropical and subtropical grasses, increased in abundance in East Asia during the late Cenozoic. Determining the exact timing and likely factors leading to this major vegetation change requires region-specific studies. Here variations in pyrogenic carbon mass accumulation rate (PyC-MAR) and isotope composition (δ13CPyC) from an ∼7-m.y.-long depositional sequence from the central Loess Plateau, China, suggest increased biomass burning and an increased contribution to combusted material from C4 taxa from 2.6 Ma. Changes in the composition of PyC after 0.6 Ma likely reflect the effects of lower temperatures, particularly during glacial periods, and changes in seasonality of precipitation. Increased PyC-MAR without concomitant changes in δ13CPyC at ca. 0.15 Ma appears to indicate a decoupling of feedbacks between changes in climate, fire regime, and vegetation, and may mark the onset of anthropogenic burning in the region. These new data suggest that C4 taxa were present on the Loess Plateau from at least the late Miocene, rising to prominence at ca. 2.6 Ma following changes in climate and, critically, an increase in biomass fires.

Simulating the Dynamical Evolution of Earth, Moon & Theia

Dynamical Evolution of the Earth-Moon Progenitors - Whence Theia?


Quarles et al


We present integrations of a model Solar System with five terrestrial planets (beginning ~30-50 Myr after the formation of primitive Solar System bodies) in order to determine the preferred regions of parameter space leading to a giant impact that resulted in the formation of the Moon. Our results indicate which choices of semimajor axes and eccentricities for Theia (the proto-Moon) at this epoch can produce a late Giant Impact, assuming that Mercury, Venus, and Mars are near the current orbits. We find that the likely semimajor axis of Theia, at the epoch when our simulations begin, depends on the assumed mass ratio of Earth-Moon progenitors (8/1, 4/1, or 1/1). The low eccentricities of the terrestrial planets are most commonly produced when the progenitors have similar semimajor axes at the epoch when our integrations commence. Additionally, we show that mean motion resonances among the terrestrial planets and perturbations from the giant planets can affect the dynamical evolution of the system leading to a late Giant Impact.

The Origin and Composition of Theia

On the origin and composition of Theia: Constraints from new models of the Giant Impact


Meier et al


Knowing the isotopic composition of Theia, the proto-planet which collided with the Earth in the Giant Impact that formed the Moon, could provide interesting insights on the state of homogenization of the inner solar system at the late stages of terrestrial planet formation. We use the known isotopic and modeled chemical compositions of the bulk silicate mantles of Earth and Moon and combine them with different Giant Impact models, to calculate the possible ranges of isotopic composition of Theia in O, Si, Ti, Cr, Zr and W in each model. We compare these ranges to the isotopic composition of carbonaceous chondrites, Mars, and other solar system materials. In the absence of post-impact isotopic re-equilibration, the recently proposed high angular momentum models of the Giant Impact ("impact-fission", Cuk & Stewart, 2012; and "merger", Canup, 2012) allow - by a narrow margin - for a Theia similar to CI-chondrites, and Mars. The "hit-and-run" model (Reufer et al., 2012) allows for a Theia similar to enstatite-chondrites and other Earth-like materials. If the Earth and Moon inherited their different mantle FeO contents from the bulk mantles of the proto-Earth and Theia, the high angular momentum models cannot explain the observed difference. However, both the hit-and-run as well as the classical or "canonical" Giant Impact model naturally explain this difference as the consequence of a simple mixture of two mantles with different FeO. Therefore, the simplest way to reconcile the isotopic similarity, and FeO dissimilarity, of Earth and Moon is a Theia with an Earth-like isotopic composition and a higher (~20%) mantle FeO content.

The Civilizations of PreColumbian Amazonia Reconsidered

Integrated palaeoecology and archaeology – a powerful approach for understanding pre-Columbian Amazonia


Mayle et al


The old paradigm that Amazonia's tropical ecosystems prevented cultural development beyond small-scale shifting agricultural economies, that had little environmental impact, no longer holds true for much of Amazonia. A diversity of archaeological evidence, including terra preta soils, raised fields, causeways, large habitation mounds, geometric earthworks, and megalithic monuments, all point to considerable cultural complexity and environmental impacts. However, uncertainty remains over the chronology of these cultures, their diet and economy, and the scale of environmental impact and land use associated with them. Here, we argue that a cross-disciplinary approach, closely coupling palaeoecology and archaeology, can potentially resolve these uncertainties. We show how, with careful site selection (pairing small and large lakes, close proximity to archaeological sites, transects of soil pits) and choice of techniques (e.g., pollen, phytoliths, starch grains, charcoal, stable isotopes), these two disciplines can be successfully integrated to provide a powerful tool for investigating the relationship between pre-Columbian cultures and their environment.

SpaceShipTwo Suffers in Flight Anomaly: Spacecraft Lost


Reports out of the Mojave are there is at least one fatality.  SS2 flies with two during the test flights.  I sincerely hope that is incorrect and both pilots are fine.

Frigate Bird Discovered in Early Eocene Paleogene Wyoming

A new species of Limnofregata (Pelecaniformes: Fregatidae) from the Early Eocene Wasatch Formation of Wyoming: implications for palaeoecology and palaeobiology




A humerus and a coracoid from the Early Eocene Wasatch Formation in the Washakie Basin of south-western Wyoming are the oldest materials (by ~2 million years) of the pelecaniform Limnofregata (Aves) and represent a new large species, Limnofregata hutchisoni sp. nov. This fossil is the oldest known member of the frigatebird lineage. Other than its large size relative to Limnofregata azygosternon and L. hasegawai, the new material is very similar morphologically to other known Limnofregata specimens. The size of this new species is comparable to the largest living species (e.g. Fregata minor and Fregata magnifiscens) and much larger than the two described species of Limnofregata. This fossil indicates that the hard minimum date previously advocated for molecular calibration of the split between Fregatidae and Suloidea is an underestimate by approximately two million years. The presence of early pelecaniform bird lineages (represented by Limnofregata and Masillastega) in limnic ecosystems prior to their known occurrences in marine deposits/habitats appears to indicate that some clades of pelecaniform birds may have undergone an evolutionary transition from freshwater to marine habitats in a pattern reminiscent of what has been suggested during the evolution of pinnipeds or that their palaeoecology included broader niches ranging across a variety of aquatic habitats. That transition in habitat occupation and the origin of many of the characteristic biological aspects present in the crown frigatebird clade likely occurred during a significant temporal gap (> 45 million years) in the fossil record of the frigatebird lineage after these earliest occurrences in the Early Eocene and before the oldest records of the extant Fregata species in the Pleistocene.

Did the Ability to Hibernate Save Mammals Across the KT Extinction?

Mammal survival at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary: metabolic homeostasis in prolonged tropical hibernation in tenrecs


Lovegrove et al


Free-ranging common tenrecs, Tenrec ecaudatus, from sub-tropical Madagascar, displayed long-term (nine months) hibernation which lacked any evidence of periodic interbout arousals (IBAs). IBAs are the dominant feature of the mammalian hibernation phenotype and are thought to periodically restore long-term ischaemia damage and/or metabolic imbalances (depletions and accumulations). However, the lack of IBAs in tenrecs suggests no such pathology at hibernation Tbs > 22°C. The long period of tropical hibernation that we report might explain how the ancestral placental mammal survived the global devastation that drove the dinosaurs and many other vertebrates to extinction at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary following a meteorite impact. The genetics and biochemistry of IBAs are of immense interest to biomedical researchers and space exploration scientists, in the latter case, those envisioning a hibernating state in astronauts for deep space travel. Unravelling the physiological thresholds and temperature dependence of IBAs will provide new impetus to these research quests.

Was Earth's First Free Atmospheric Oxygen Produced by the Sun?

About one-fifth of the Earth's atmosphere is oxygen, pumped out by green plants as a result of photosynthesis and used by most living things on the planet to keep our metabolisms running. But before the first photosynthesizing organisms appeared about 2.4 billion years ago, the atmosphere likely contained mostly carbon dioxide, as is the case today on Mars and Venus.

Over the past 40 years, researchers have thought that there must have been a small amount of oxygen in the early atmosphere. Where did this abiotic ("non-life") oxygen come from? Oxygen reacts quite aggressively with other compounds, so it would not persist for long without some continuous source.

Now UC Davis graduate student Zhou Lu, working with professors in the Departments of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has shown that oxygen can be formed in one step by using a high energy vacuum ultraviolet laser to excite carbon dioxide. (The work is published Oct. 3 in the journal Science).

"Previously, people believed that the abiotic (no green plants involved) source of molecular oxygen is by CO2 + solar light — > CO + O, then O + O + M — > O2 + M (where M represents a third body carrying off the energy released in forming the oxygen bond)," Zhou said in an email. "Our results indicate that O2 can be formed by carbon dioxide dissociation in a one step process. The same process can be applied in other carbon dioxide dominated atmospheres such as Mars and Venus."

Zhou used a vacuum ultraviolet laser to irradiate CO2 in the laboratory. Vacuum ultraviolet light is so-called because it has a wavelength below 200 nanometers and is typically absorbed by air. The experiments were performed by using a unique ion imaging apparatus developed at UC Davis.

Such one-step oxygen formation could be happening now as carbon dioxide increases in the region of the upper atmosphere, where high energy vacuum ultraviolet light from the Sun hits Earth or other planets. It is the first time that such a reaction has been shown in the laboratory. According to one of the scientists who reviewed the paper for Science, Zhou's work means that models of the evolution of planetary atmospheres will now have to be adjusted to take this into account.

Was There a MesoProterozoic Oxygen Crash After the Great Oxidation Event?

Low Mid-Proterozoic atmospheric oxygen levels and the delayed rise of animals


Planavsky et al


The oxygenation of Earth’s surface fundamentally altered global biogeochemical cycles and ultimately paved the way for the rise of metazoans at the end of the Proterozoic. However, current estimates for atmospheric oxygen (O2) levels during the billion years leading up to this time vary widely. On the basis of chromium (Cr) isotope data from a suite of Proterozoic sediments from China, Australia, and North America, interpreted in the context of data from similar depositional environments from Phanerozoic time, we find evidence for inhibited oxidation of Cr at Earth’s surface in the mid-Proterozoic (1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago). These data suggest that atmospheric O2 levels were at most 0.1% of present atmospheric levels. Direct evidence for such low O2 concentrations in the Proterozoic helps explain the late emergence and diversification of metazoans.

Israel Cancelled V-22 Order?

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has canceled a still-unsigned multi-billion-dollar deal with the US for advanced military capabilities, amid strained ties with Washington.

The deal includes six V-22 aircraft, which the US has not released to any other country.

The decision, first reported by Israel Hayom and coming a week after Ya’alon was reportedly shunned by official Washington during a visit to the US, drew no comment from the Defense Ministry or the IDF.

Uncle House: How the Housing Market in China Aids Corruption

OFTEN the trickiest part of being a corrupt bureaucrat is not how to find new ways to extort money or accept bribes, but how to hide the ill-gotten gains. No one wants to end up like “Uncle House”, as a district official in the southern province of Guangdong was dubbed by internet users. He was outed two years ago by online anti-corruption activists after acquiring 22 properties that on his salary he clearly could not afford.

However, research by Hanming Fang of the University of Pennsylvania, and Li-An Zhou and Quanlin Gu of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University suggests that the housing market is a source of illicit riches, as well as a place to park them. The authors find that Chinese bureaucrats consistently pay less when buying houses, receiving on average a 1% discount.

The authors examined over 1m mortgage contracts, which contain detailed statistics on the applicant, such as his income and employer, and the house in question. They then compared the average price paid by bureaucrats with that paid by those in the private sector. These estimates probably underestimate the corruption as they do not cover houses purchased by the spouses or children of bureaucrats.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Is France Delivering the First Mistral to Russia on November 14th?!

France's sale of two Mistral-class landing helicopter docks (LHDs) to Russia caused further controversy on 29 October, after Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin claimed the first vessel would be handed over on 14 November.

Rogozin made the claim via Twitter, and published a photo of a letter purporting to be an invite from DCNS to Rosoboronexport for a handover ceremony of Vladivostok on 14 November. The document was dated 8 October and written in English.


France says no accord reached & Rogozin is not correct.

Have They Found a Cure for HPV?

New research presented at the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) 11th International Conference in Houston, TX showed for the first time that it is possible to eliminate HPV infection in women using a readily available nutritional supplement, AHCC.

The study, presented by Dr. Judith A. Smith, Pharm.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, was selected for special research platform presentation as "Best of SIO."

"HPV is associated with 99% of cervical cancers as well as many other life threatening cancers," said Dr. Smith. "Patients who learn that they have HPV, and their doctors, are understandably frustrated because all we can do is monitor them for the abnormal changes associated with cancer. What we need is a safe, effective treatment for HPV before the cancer occurs."

In the study ten women who tested HPV-positive with the Cervista HPV HR Test were treated orally with the Japanese mushroom extract AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) once daily for up to six months. Five achieved a negative HPV test result – three with confirmed eradication after stopping AHCC – and the remaining two responders continue on the study.

Further investigation in a formal phase II randomized placebo controlled study is now being enrolled at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.

Has China Nipped Bitcoin in the Bud?

In the year 2000, Bill Clinton famously quipped that trying to control the internet in China would be like "trying to nail Jello to a wall".

Fourteen years later and, for the most part at least , the Chinese government has managed to pull off what was then deemed impossible and make it stick.

The same phenomenon is repeating itself with the latest digital disruptor de jour, the crypto-currency bitcoin.

Many analysts believe bitcoin is at around the same level of development and recognition as the internet was when Clinton made those remarks.

Recognising the game-changing economic upside to the internet, the Chinese government accepted it, but on its own terms. Bitcoin has followed a similar logic.

In his new book Chomping at the Bitcoin, Shanghai-based financial analyst Zennon Kapron charts the recent history of bitcoin in China and sketches out the contours of its likely future there.

Deep Mind Project at Google Unveils Neural Turing Machines

Neural Turing Machines


Graves et al


We extend the capabilities of neural networks by coupling them to external memory resources, which they can interact with by attentional processes. The combined system is analogous to a Turing Machine or Von Neumann architecture but is differentiable end-to-end, allowing it to be efficiently trained with gradient descent. Preliminary results demonstrate that Neural Turing Machines can infer simple algorithms such as copying, sorting, and associative recall from input and output examples.

pop sci write up.

Using Plant DNA, Manufacturing "Finger Prints" to ID Coutnerfeit Electronics

“There’re a lot of chiselers out there,” Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek sighs. Congressional angst over counterfeit parts has understandably focused on ersatz electronics, many of them from much-mistrusted China, but as head of the Defense Logistics Agency, Harnitchek has found fakes in everything from air filters to rubber tubing. “There’re folks that counterfeit those, believe it or not,” Harnitchek told me.

That’s why DLA is expanding its war against fakery to new fronts by funding research into two very different types of authentication technology from two very different companies. Applied DNA Science repurposes plant DNA as an invisible, indelible seal of authenticity. ChromoLogic LLC‘s promising but less-proven technique uses digital cameras to scan microscopic patterns on the surface of materials, patterns which give each manufacturer a unique fingerprint.

Size Differences in US Navy Ships


Seasonal and Regional Records of Pliestocene Quarternary Asian Monsoons

Temperature and leaf wax δ2H records demonstrate seasonal and regional controls on Asian monsoon proxies


Thomas et al


Orbital-scale precipitation isotope records can elucidate climate forcing mechanisms and provide benchmarks for climate model validation. The ability to differentiate the influence of temperature, seasonality, and vapor transport history on precipitation isotope proxies is critical to both objectives. We present a 300 k.y. leaf wax hydrogen isotope record from the South China Sea with the effects of local condensation temperature removed (δ2Hwax–T). δ2Hwax–T reflects annually integrated precipitation δ2H in the Pearl River catchment of southeast China. Depleted δ2Hwax–T lags minimum precession (Pmin) by 1.0 ± 0.7 k.y., reflecting the influence of maximum summer insolation and minimum winter insolation, with a minor influence of global ice volume, which lags Pmin by 3.3 ± 0.4 k.y. In contrast, annually integrated cave δ18O minima in central China, 1000 km north of our site, lag Pmin by 2.7 ± 0.3 k.y., in phase with ice volume minima. This phase indicates that precipitation δ18O in central China is more strongly influenced by ice volume forcing at the precession band, with a lesser influence of Northern Hemisphere insolation. Our new δ2Hwax–T data demonstrate that precipitation isotopes in Asia have strong regional variability. Interpreting water isotope records within the context of regionally varying temperature, seasonality, and sensitivity to changing glacial boundary conditions is imperative to understanding Asian hydroclimatic change.

Hunting for Iron From the South Pole-Aitken Basin Impactor

Surveying the South Pole-Aitken basin magnetic anomaly for remnant impactor metallic iron


Cahill et al


The Moon has areas of magnetized crust (“magnetic anomalies”), the origins of which are poorly constrained. A magnetic anomaly near the northern rim of South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin was recently postulated to originate from remnant metallic iron emplaced by the SPA basin-forming impactor. Here, we remotely examine the regolith of this SPA magnetic anomaly with a combination of Clementine and Lunar Prospector derived iron maps for any evidence of enhanced metallic iron content. We find that these data sets do not definitively detect the hypothesized remnant metallic iron within the upper tens of centimeters of the lunar regolith.

Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic Sites From France

Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic site formation processes at the Bordes-Fitte rockshelter (Central France)


Aubry et al


Transformation in technological patterns associated with the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition between 50 and 40 ka in Western Europe and their relationship with the Neanderthal and Anatomically Modern Human populations and behaviors are issues that continue to stimulate heated debate. In this article we use the Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic archaeo-stratigraphic record from the Bordes-Fitte rockshelter (les Roches d'Abilly site, Central France), a Bayesian analysis of the ages obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon on ultrafiltered collagen and by luminescence on quartz and feldspar grains, to establish a timeline for material culture and sedimentary dynamic changes during the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition. Technology, refitting studies and taphonomy of lithic artifacts recovered in the geoarchaeological field units D1 and D2 permit to characterize 3 reduction strategies (Levallois, Discoidal and Châtelperronian blade) that took place between the cold Heinrich events 5 and 4. We discuss the implications of the results to characterize the end of the Middle Palaeolithic, and for distinguishing anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors in Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic assemblage's variability.

Iteravis huchzermeyeri: An Aptian Cretaceous Ornithuromorph Bird From Jehol Biota

A new species from an ornithuromorph (Aves: Ornithothoraces) dominated locality of the Jehol Biota




We report on a new species of ornithuromorph bird, Iteravis huchzermeyeri gen. et sp. nov., from the previously unreported Sihedang locality of the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation, the oldest ornithuromorph bearing deposit in the world. Unlike most other Cretaceous localities, specimens from this new quarry are largely referable to Ornithuromorpha, similar to the Lower Cretaceous Aptian Xiagou Formation in Gansu Province. Also similar to the Xiagou avifauna, the fauna at Sihedang is largely dominated by a single taxon (described here). Differences in faunal dominance may suggest the Sihedang records a unique ecological habitat. This may also explain the dominance of Gansus in the younger Xiagou Formation locality and suggests that previous hypotheses regarding the shift in dominance between Enantiornithes and Ornithuromorpha need to be reassessed in terms of potential ecological biases due to limited sampling. Furthermore, the recognition of an ornithuromorph dominated locality in the Sihedang significantly weakens the signal of such an inferred trend. Compared to most Jehol birds, the new specimen is relatively better preserved in three dimensions revealing morphological details of the skeleton, as well as preserves feather impressions including a rectricial morphology previously unknown among Mesozoic birds.

The First Pterosaur From Kimmeridgian Jurassic Scotland

A Scottish pterosaur in London: the first record of Pterosauria from the Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian) of Eathie (Ross and Cromarty), Scotland


Steel et al


A pterosaur wing phalange from the Kimmeridgian of Eathie (Ross and Cromarty) is identified as the first pterosaur to have been collected in Scotland. The specimen was acquired by the British Museum (Natural History) in 1888, but an old collector's label gives the date of collection as 1850. The handwriting matches that of Charles W. Peach (1800–1886), who later became better known for his fossil fish and plant collections, which still exist in the Natural History Museum, London, and other museums. Peach collected this pterosaur specimen during his first year of working in Scotland, and it was probably one of his earliest finds of north of the border. Pterosaur remains are exceptionally rare in Scotland and otherwise unknown from this particular site, so this newly recognised specimen is a significant addition to the Scottish fossil record. It is also among the earliest UK pterosaur finds, post-dating Mary Anning's discovery of Dimorphodon by just over two decades.

Eukaryotic Fossil During the Sturtian Glaciations of Cryogenian NeoProterozoic Australia & Svalbard

Organic-walled microfossil assemblages from glacial and interglacial Neoproterozoic units of Australia and Svalbard


Riedman et al


Before the onset of the Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth glaciations, eukaryotes had begun diversifying, and in their aftermath, macroscopic life, including both animals and macroalgae, became abundant and widespread. Although glacially driven mass extinctions have been hypothesized, little is known about the biosphere during and between these glaciations. Here we present new data from organic-walled microfossil assemblages from five successions in Australia and Svalbard that collectively span the first (Sturtian) glaciation and interglacial interval and integrate them with data derived from a critical evaluation of the literature to produce a new estimate of eukaryotic diversity from 850 to 650 Ma. These new glacial and interglacial assemblages consist of only smooth-walled spheroids (leiosphaerids), aggregates of cells, and filaments, in contrast to the much more diverse organic-walled microfossil assemblages found in early Neoproterozoic rocks. This contrast is not attributed to biases in deposition or preservation, but is instead interpreted as reflecting an interval of lowered eukaryotic diversity that spanned the glaciations and that may have begun millions of years prior to their onset.

Second Yasen Class Nuclear Submarine to be Delivered to Russian Navy in 2016

The Russian Navy is set to take delivery of an improved Project 885M Yasen-class attack submarine in 2016 according to Russian state media. The new vessel, named after the city of Kazan, incorporates many improvements to the lead Project 855 boat, K-329 Severodvinsk, which was commissioned earlier in 2014.

“The first improved Project 885M submarine, the Kazan, will be delivered to the Russian Navy in 2016,” Nikolai Novoselov, deputy general director of the Malakhit design bureau told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

Kazan will have improved sensors and weapon systems compared to Severodvinsk. It is also likely to be quieter than the original vessel, read the report.

The Russians are incorporating improvements to the Project 855 design because of Severodvinsk’s delayed entry into service. The K-329’s construction had been repeatedly delayed since it was first laid down in 1993. Russia was forced to defer construction of the vessel due to the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result of the repeated deferrals, even though Severodvinsk is an impressive attack submarine, many of its systems were obsolete years before the boat ever became operational.

Israel to Boost F-35 Buy by 25 Aircraft to 44

Israel has decided to increase its acquisition of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters by 25 aircraft, which will bring its fleet to 44 of the fifth-generation type.

The country’s second contract, which is not yet finalised, was approved in principle when Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently met with his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Washington DC.

Israel has already purchased 19 of the aircraft, at a cost of $2.75 billion. The first two F-35s are due to arrive in Israel by early 2017 and the rest should be delivered by 2018. The Israeli air force (IAF) plans to base the aircraft at Nevatim airbase in the southern region of the country.

The F-35's wings will be built in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon’s F-35 programme chief, plans to visit Israel next week for the official inauguration of the wing production line. IAI will begin delivery of F-35 wings to Lockheed Martin in mid-2015.

The decade-long contract for F-35 wing production is part of Lockheed’s plan to share manufacturing cost and responsibility among its partner nations, although Israel is technically a foreign military sales customer under US law. The contract is worth up to $2.5 billion.

IAI has invested substantially in the advanced systems and technologies required to produce the wings since signing the contract in April 2013 and has established a dedicated production line to carry out the work.

A Proposed British Referendum on EU Membership Failed in Parliament

A bid to set in law a proposed British referendum on EU membership failed on Tuesday, with both parties in the coalition government blaming the other.

Put forward by Bob Neill, a backbencher in the Conservative party of Prime Minister David Cameron, the bill would have guaranteed that the next government would have to hold a referendum in 2017.

The bill passed its first hurdle earlier this month, but the parties' failure to agree means it will not go forward to a vote in the House of Commons.

Under pressure from the rising popularity of the anti-EU UK Independence Party ahead of a May 2015 election, Cameron has vowed to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the bloc and then hold a referendum.

The Liberal Democrats said that their coalition partners secretly opposed the bill as it would have taken the force out of an election promise that voting Conservative is the only way to guarantee an EU referendum.

Deputy leader Malcolm Bruce said that the Conservative Party had deliberately sabotaged the bill by "adding ridiculous conditions".

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

8 Billion Asteroids may Lurk in the Oort Cloud

Eight billion asteroids in the Oort cloud


Shannon et al


The Oort cloud is usually thought of as a collection of icy comets inhabiting the outer reaches of the Solar system, but this picture is incomplete. We use simulations of the formation of the Oort cloud to show that ~4% of the small bodies in the Oort cloud should have formed within 2.5 au of the Sun, and hence be ice-free rock-iron bodies. If we assume these Oort cloud asteroids have the same size distribution as their cometary counterparts, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope should find roughly a dozen Oort cloud asteroids during ten years of operations. Measurement of the asteroid fraction within the Oort cloud can serve as an excellent test of the Solar system's formation and dynamical history. Oort cloud asteroids could be of particular concern as impact hazards as their high mass density, high impact velocity, and low visibility make them both hard to detect and hard to divert or destroy. However, they should be a rare class of object, and we estimate globally catastrophic collisions should only occur about once per billion years.

Robopocalyptic Defibulator Drone in the Netherlands

A Dutch-based student on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of an "ambulance drone", a flying defibrillator able to reach heart attack victims within precious life-saving minutes.

Developed by Belgian engineering graduate Alec Momont, it can fly at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour (60 miles per hour).

"Around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only 8.0 percent survive," Momont, 23, said at the TU Delft University.

"The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes," he said in a statement.

"The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometre (4.6 square miles) zone within a minute, reducing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent."

Painted in emergency services yellow and driven by six propellers, the drone can carry a four kilogramme load -- in this case a defibrillator.

It tracks emergency mobile calls and uses the GPS to navigate.

Once at the scene, an operator, like a paramedic, can watch, talk and instruct those helping the victim by using an on-board camera connected to a control room via a livestream webcam.

The prototype has already attracted the interest of emergency services including that of Amsterdam, the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad said.

The Dutch Heart Foundation also applauded the idea, the newspaper added.

Momont however wants his drone to become a "flying medical toolbox" able to carry an oxygen mask to a person trapped in a fire or an insulin injection to a diabetes sufferer.

However, the drone is still in its infancy as far as developing its steering mechanism and legal issues regarding its use are concerned, Momont said.

HP Announces 3d Printer, Scanner+

HP today announced a new 3D printing technology called Multi Jet Fusion that it said will enable mass production of parts with a technology traditionally reserved for rapid prototyping.

The new industrial 3D printer, about the size of a washing machine, is 10 times faster and 50% less expensive than current systems on the market, HP said. The printer can also use a myriad of colors and materials.

The company also announced Sprout, a new immersive computing platform that combines a 23-in touch screen monitor and horizontal capacitive touch mat with a scanner, depth sensor, hi-res camera, and projector in a single desktop device.

DOE NNSA Begins Upgrading B61 Nuclear Bombs

The United States has begun work to upgrade the B61 gravity bomb family under a life extension programme for the ageing nuclear weapon.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the US Department of Energy (DoE), oversees nuclear modernisation and has forecast the overall programme could cost around USD8.1 billion through 2024.

Frank Klotz, under-secretary for nuclear security and the NNSA administrator, called the B61-12 life extension element of the programme "key for the NNSA" over the next decade, and noted that the project is now in an engineering and development phase with successful integration trials having been conducted so far on the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft.

US Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout Readied for Shipside Flight Testing

The latest version of Navy’s Fire Scout reconnaissance drone is being readied for actual takeoff and landing from the deck of a Navy ship at sea, the company announced following recent test takeoffs and landings using a sloped platform at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, California.

“The … tests are designed to be as real as it gets to actually operating on a Navy ship,” Capt. Patrick Smith, Fire Scout program manager at Naval Air Systems Command, said in a statement. “The autonomous MQ-8C Fire Scout system is able to precisely track and understand the roll and pitch of the surface which resembles at-sea conditions.”

The same test platform was used previously to test the MQ-8B Fire Scout for ship-based operations. That unmanned aviation system began at-sea testing earlier this year. Northrop Grumman, the Navy’s prime contractor on the MQ-8, said initial ship-based flights of the C-model will take place before year’s end.

The MQ-8C model has flown 219 flights and 287 hours since its first flight nearly one year ago, on Oct. 31.

Paleo-position of the North China Craton Within the supercontinent Columbia

Paleo-position of the North China craton within the supercontinent Columbia: Constraints from new paleomagnetic results


Xu et al


Several new paleomagnetic and geological studies focused on the reconstruction of the North China Craton (NCC) within the Paleo-Mesoproterozoic Columbia supercontinent. In spite of these new data, there are still widely divergent opinions regarding supercontinental reconstructions. In addition to qualitative correlations of orogenic belts, rift basin ages, stratigraphy and distribution of igneous provinces, paleomagnetic data can provide key constraints on the positioning of individual cratons on the globe. In this paper, we report a detailed paleomagnetic study on the coeval ∼1780 Ma mafic dyke swarm and Xiong’er volcanic province, which extended for more than one thousand kilometers in the central NCC. Rock magnetic studies, including thermomagnetic curves, hysteresis loops and the progressive acquisition of isothermal remanence conducted in selected samples, indicate that the dominant magnetic carriers are PSD magnetite. Stepwise thermal demagnetization isolated higher-temperature components directed to NNE/SSW with shallow inclinations from 37 sampling sites (16 sites in Yinshan area, 13 sites in Taihang area and 8 sites in Xiaoshan area). A baked contact test conducted on two Yinshan dykes intruded by a younger dyke demonstrates the magnetization in the Yinshan dykes pre-dates 1320 Ma. The existence of dual-polarity magnetizations in both Taihang and Xiong’er areas support our contention that the ChRM was acquired during the cooling of the magma. The primary origin of the ChRM is also supported by a positive fold test on the Xiong’er data, and a coherent regional test between the results from the Taihang and Xiong’er areas. Two different site-mean directions were compiled from these new results along with previous publications. The first direction, from the Taihang and Xiong’er areas, yields Declination (D)/Inclination (I) = 12.4°/−3.7° (κ = 20.5, α95 = 4.3°, N = 57 sites). The second, from the Yinshan area is at (D) 36.7°/(I)−12.4° (κ = 86.8, α95 = 2.7°, N = 32 sites). We argue that the difference is due to Mesozoic and/or Cenozoic vertical-axis rotation of the Taihang and Xiong’er areas with respect to the fixed Yinshan-Ordos basin. The corresponding paleopoles for the Yinshan dykes falls at 245.2°E/35.5°N (A95 = 2.4°). A comparison between the NCC, Laurentia, Siberia and Baltica is consistent with possible links between these four blocks in a perhaps, even larger, continent. The proximity of Australia and India to the NCC is also evaluated.

How the Early Cretaceous Jehol Lagerstatte Fossilized



Pan et al


The taphonomic pathways of “Ephemeropsis trisetalis” nymphs (mayfly larvae) were systematically investigated based on fossils of different preservational types, collected during three high–stratigraphic-resolution (mm to cm) excavations in the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation in the Sihetun area of western Liaoning, China. All fossils studied are fully articulated either in three or two dimensions, which indicates that decay was terminated at a stage before the exoskeleton became disarticulated. We conclude that the Jehol organic skeletons represent at least two general types of preservation produced by pyritization and collapse/compression, respectively. The two-dimensional compressions show no evidence for authigenic minerals, but the three-dimensionally preserved fossils are wholly or partially pyritized. Our study also indicates that aluminosilicate clay and pyrite mineralization are closely associated with fossil “Ephemeropsis trisetalis” nymphs, suggesting that both clay and pyrite played important roles in lacustrine fossil preservations, as in some marine fossil Lagerstätten. We propose a general model for organic tissue fossilization in the Jehol Lagerstätte based on study of taphonomy of “Ephemeropsis trisetalis” nymphs.

Lunar Oceanus Procellarum Created by Supervolcano, not Impact

Oceanus Procellarum, a vast dark patch visible on the western edge of the Moon's near side, has long been a source of mystery for planetary scientists. Some have suggested that the "ocean of storms" is part of a giant basin formed by an asteroid impact early in the Moon's history. But new research published today in Nature deals a pretty big blow to the impact theory.

The new study, based on data from NASA's GRAIL mission, found a series of linear gravitational anomalies forming a giant rectangle, nearly 1,600 miles across, running beneath the Procellarum region. Those anomalies appear to be the remnants of ancient rifts in the Moon's crust, say the authors of the new study. The rifts provided a vast "magma plumbing system" that flooded the region with volcanic lava between 3 and 4 billion years ago. That giant flux of lava solidified to form the dark basalts we see from Earth.

It's the shape of the underlying gravity anomalies that cast doubt on impact hypothesis, said Jim Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown and one of the authors of the new paper.

"Instead of a central circular gravity anomaly like all other impact basins, at Procellarum we see these linear features forming this huge rectangle," Head said. "This shape argues strongly for an internal origin and suggests internal forces."

The research team, led by Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna of the Colorado School of Mines, suggests a new hypothesis for just what those internal forces may have been. The process, the researchers believe, was driven by the geochemical composition of the Moon's crust in the Procellarum region.

Early in its history, the Moon is believed to have been entirely covered in molten magma, which slowly cooled to form the crust. However, the Procellarum region is known to have a high concentration of uranium, thorium, and potassium — radioactive elements that produce heat. The researchers believe those elements may have caused Procellarum to cool and solidify after the rest of the crust had already cooled. When Procellarum did finally cool, it shrank and pulled away from the surrounding crust, forming the giant rifts seen in the new data. Magma flowed into those rifts and flooded the region.

"We think this is a really good, testable alternative to the impact basin theory," said Head. "Everything we see suggests that internal forces were critical in the formation of Procellarum."

Pleistocene Archaelogy From the VERY High Abdes (almost 15,000 ft) Excavated

Research conducted at the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world sheds new light on the capacity of humans to survive in extreme environments.

The findings, to be published in the Oct. 24 edition of the academic journal Science – co-authored by a team of researchers including University of Calgary archaeologist Sonia Zarrillo – were taken from sites in the Pucuncho Basin, located in the Southern Peruvian Andes.

The primary site, Cuncaicha is a rock shelter at 4,480 metres above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it. There is also a Pucuncho workshop site where stone tools were made at 4,355 metres above sea level. Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans. And yet, the findings indicate that people were living in these high altitude zones for extended periods of time. Cuncaicha was occupied about 12.4 to 11.5 thousand years ago while the Pucuncho workshop site dates to around 12.8 to 11.5 thousand years ago.

"We don't know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving," says Zarrillo. "There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we've found evidence of a whole range of activities."

Archaeological evidence found at Cuncaicha includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools. "Hunters passing through an area will take the meat back to campsites and leave the carcass in the field," says Zarrillo. "In Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals, indicating they were living close to where the animals were killed. And the types of stone tools we've found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets."

A Large Enantiornithine Bird from Hauterivian Cretaceous China

A large enantiornithine bird from the Lower Cretaceous of China and its implication for lung ventilation


Zhang et al


The Enantiornithes were the most taxonomically diverse bird group in the Mesozoic. Most of the known taxa are from Lower Cretaceous deposits of the Jehol Group in north-eastern China. A new specimen from the Jiufotang Formation in Jianchang, Liaoning Province, is described here; being a subadult individual at the time of death it had reached a relatively large size. The presence of uncinate processes, bicapitate and forked vertebral ribs, sternal ribs that were all of similar length, as well as the location of parapophyses and diapophyses on the thoracic vertebrae, may imply a rigid and volume-constant lung, and less efficient lung ventilation in enantiornithines.

Marine–terrestrial Kockatea Biota From Smithian Olenekian Triassic Australia

Early Triassic (early Olenekian) life in the interior of East Gondwana: mixed marine–terrestrial biota from the Kockatea Shale, Western Australia


Haig et al


A new terrestrial–marine assemblage from the lower beds of a thin outcrop section of the Kockatea Shale in the northern Perth Basin, Western Australia, contains a range of fossil groups, most of which are rare or poorly known from the Lower Triassic of the region. To date, the collection includes spinose acritarchs, organic-cemented agglutinated foraminifera, lingulids, minute bivalves and gastropods, ammonoids, spinicaudatans, insects, austriocaridid crustaceans, actinopterygians, a temnospondyl-like mandible, plant remains, and spores and pollen. Of these groups, the insects, crustaceans and macroplant remains are recorded for the first time from this unit.

Palynomorphs permit correlation to nearby sections where conodonts indicate an early Olenekian (Smithian) age. The locality likely represents the margin of an Early Triassic shallow interior sea with variable estuarine-like water conditions, at the southwestern end of an elongate embayment within the East Gondwana interior rift–sag system preserved along the Western Australian margin. Monospecific spinose acritarch assemblages intertwined with amorphous organic matter may represent phytoplankton blooms that accumulated as mats, and suggest potentially eutrophic surface waters. The assemblage represents a mixure of marine and terrestrial taxa, suggesting variations in water conditions or that fresh/brackish-water and terrestrial organisms were transported from adjacent biotopes. Some of the lower dark shaly beds are dominated by spinicaudatans, likely indicating periods when the depositional water body was ephemeral, isolated, or subjected to other difficult environmental conditions.

The biota of the Kockatea Shale is insufficiently known to estimate biotic diversity and relationships of individual taxa to their Permian progenitors and Triassic successors, but provides a glimpse into a coastal-zone from the interior of eastern Gondwana. Specialist collecting is needed to clarify the taxonomy of many groups, and comparisons to other Lower Triassic sites are required to provide insights into the pattern of biotic decline and recovery at the end-Permian crisis.

Fossil Evidence of Iron Oxidizing Bacteria From the Great Oxidation Event

Fossil evidence of iron-oxidizing chemolithotrophy linked to phosphogenesis in the wake of the Great Oxidation Event


Crosby et al


The oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere allowed for the diversification of metabolisms to include those that rely on oxygen and its derivatives. For example, chemolithotrophic oxidation of sulfide and iron both require oxygen or nitrate as terminal electron acceptors. A growing number of oxygen-utilizing chemolithotrophs are known to accumulate intracellular polyphosphate as an energy reserve that allows them to adapt to the fluctuating redox conditions in their distinctive-gradient habitats. Polyphosphate is also thought to play an important role in the formation of phosphatic mineral deposits. Here we present fossil evidence of iron-oxidizing bacteria preserved as filamentous iron oxides within phosphatic Paleoproterozoic stromatolites. The filaments include twisted stalks similar to those produced by modern iron-oxidizing bacteria that are known to metabolize polyphosphate and inhabit steep redox gradients. Fossil iron-oxidizing bacteria preserved within some of the oldest known phosphorites serve as indicators of O2-Fe(II) gradients that may have supported microbially mediated phosphogenesis via polyphosphate metabolism and/or an active iron redox pump.

Sea Level Fluctuation Ceased Globally 6k Years Ago, Resumed Rising 100 to 150 Years Ago

Sea level and global ice volumes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene


Lambeck et al


The major cause of sea-level change during ice ages is the exchange of water between ice and ocean and the planet’s dynamic response to the changing surface load. Inversion of ∼1,000 observations for the past 35,000 y from localities far from former ice margins has provided new constraints on the fluctuation of ice volume in this interval. Key results are: (i) a rapid final fall in global sea level of ∼40 m in less than 2,000 y at the onset of the glacial maximum ∼30,000 y before present (30 ka BP); (ii) a slow fall to −134 m from 29 to 21 ka BP with a maximum grounded ice volume of ∼52 × 106 km3 greater than today; (iii) after an initial short duration rapid rise and a short interval of near-constant sea level, the main phase of deglaciation occurred from ∼16.5 ka BP to ∼8.2 ka BP at an average rate of rise of 12 m⋅ka−1 punctuated by periods of greater, particularly at 14.5–14.0 ka BP at ≥40 mm⋅y−1 (MWP-1A), and lesser, from 12.5 to 11.5 ka BP (Younger Dryas), rates; (iv) no evidence for a global MWP-1B event at ∼11.3 ka BP; and (v) a progressive decrease in the rate of rise from 8.2 ka to ∼2.5 ka BP, after which ocean volumes remained nearly constant until the renewed sea-level rise at 100–150 y ago, with no evidence of oscillations exceeding ∼15–20 cm in time intervals ≥200 y from 6 to 0.15 ka BP.

Russian Yasen Class Nuclear Submarine More Capable Than Best Los Angeles Class SSN

One of the U.S. Navy’s top submarine officers was so impressed with Russia’s new Project 885 nuclear attack boats that he had a model of K-329 Severodvinsk built for his office.

Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) program executive officer (PEO) submarines said he had the model of Severodvinsk placed outside his office in a common area so that he could look at it every day on his way to his office.

“We’ll be facing tough potential opponents. One only has to look at the Severodvinsk, Russia’s version of a [nuclear guided missile submarine] (SSGN). I am so impressed with this ship that I had Carderock build a model from unclassified data.” Johnson said last week during the Naval Submarine League’s symposium in Falls Church, Va.
“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still.”

The Russian attack boat had been in construction since 1993 and only entered sea trials late in 2011. The boat finally became operational earlier this year. A cash-strapped Russian Federation had to repeatedly delay completion of the submarine in the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Severodvinsk is the most capable Russian attack submarine ever built and leverages many of the technologies the Soviet Union invested in during the 1970s and 1980s.

Saab, Brazil FInalize Gripen Purchase

Saab and industrial partners including Embraer are to start work on 36 Gripen NG fighters formally ordered by Brazil with the signing on 27 October of a SKr39.3 billion ($5.8 billion) contract for delivery over five years, starting in 2019.

The deal – under negotiation since December 2013, when Brazil selected the Gripen over Dassault's Rafale and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for its F-X2 requirement – is for 28 single-seat and eight two-seat aircraft, and makes Brazil the export launch customer for the NG model.

About 15 of the aircraft will be assembled in Brazil and the rest in Sweden, although 150 Brazilian engineers and a number of technicians will soon be arriving in Sweden for training and to participate in the assembly of some of the aircraft.

Lennart Sindahl, who heads Saab’s aeronautics business, says the single-seaters will be similar to the E-model Gripens under development for the Swedish air force. As part of a technology transfer plan, the two-seaters will include some Brazil-specific design features and will be developed with the help of the engineers being dispatched to Sweden.

The two-seaters will therefore, adds Sindahl, be delivered later in the five-year delivery cycle.

The Gripens will replace Dassault Mirage 2000C fighters operated by Brazil’s 1st Air Defence Group and a number of modernised Northrop F-5EMs in four other air force squadrons.

Indian Prime Minister Modi's Enablers

NOT since Indira Gandhi has a prime minister of India been as dominant as Narendra Modi. His clout comes from the big electoral victory in May of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a remarkably personalised campaign; from a hyperactive prime minister’s office that makes Mr Modi look presidential; and from an opposition Congress party in tatters. But even the mightiest cannot rule alone, and Mr Modi relies on two old allies, both crucial. One, Amit Shah, engineers the electoral victories that give Mr Modi his authority. The other, Arun Jaitley, must take that authority and out of it craft policies and decisions that will launch the economic recovery which Mr Modi has promised and by which he will be judged. These two men are Mr Modi’s enablers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Video of Chinese Stealth Fighter J-31 Acrobatics

Tracking a Bitcoin Thief

For the last two years the crypto currency scene had exploded in size as people began learning about and participating in Bitcoin and its alternate currencies. Altcoins as people call them are smaller projects that can be mined and often traded directly for Bitcoin by miners who can not afford to mine Bitcoin directly. With this uprising of alternate currencies came the rise of many Exchanges; sites that provided a platform and medium for supporters, miners and traders of these projects to buy/sell/trade these currencies.

One of these altcoin exchanges was; a site dedicated to providing a fast paced medium for users to trade brand new crypto currencies which were traded at exchanges sometimes less than an hour after they were released. Unfortunately CryptoRush suffered a series of break-ins that crushed many members of the community but also provided an opportunity for us at BITCOMSEC to research, analyse evidence and track down the perpetrators. This article details over 7 months of logs, evidence and research that we have looked at to pinpoint exactly what happened at CryptoRush, its owners and who did walk away with all that money...

Charlie Stross Called and Wants his Singularity Sky Concept Back

One possible future for communication is to create a quantum version of the internet that will have the ability, among other things, to send information with perfect security. This network will use entangled photons to transmit information from one locations to another without it passing through the space in between, hence the security.

Photons can only travel hundred kilometres or so through optical fibres before being absorbed. Conventional optical networks get around this with repeaters that boost the optical signal as it passes by.

This is more difficult with a quantum network but physicists have already tested many of the building blocks necessary to make quantum repeaters work. Nevertheless, quantum repeaters will be delicate pieces of kit, operating close to absolute zero with all the necessary cooling and power that is also required.

That should be relatively straightforward for quantum networks that stretch across land. But it is entirely unsuitable for undersea cables where conditions are far more hostile and the absence of infrastructure is a potential showstopper.

In fact, nobody is quite sure how it will be possible to operate the number of quantum repeaters necessary to carry one half of an entangled photon pair across the Atlantic or the Pacific. And without any technology even on the horizon that can do this job, there is a very real possibility that the quantum Internet might only ever consist of isolated quantum islands on different continents.

Today, Simon Devitt from Ochanomizu University in Japan and a few pals have come up with a way to solve this problem. Their idea is to transport the quantum bits or qubits across the ocean on a containership, a kind of quantum Clipper, that will shuttle back and forth across the seas with a ghostly quantum load.

OSHBots: Robopocalypse Coming to Orchard Supply Hardware

The robots are coming. Lowe's is testing whether new bots on wheels can improve its customer service, like helping a shopper find a match for something as simple as a nail.

Four robots are being tested an Orchard Supply Hardware store owned by Lowe's Companies Inc. in San Jose, California.

The robots dubbed OSHbots look like white columns with two large black screens on either side of them, and wheels to help them move. They are equipped with 3D cameras so they can scan and identify items. And customers can research items they want to buy on their screen. Then the robot can lead them to the aisle where an item is located.

"They're based on making a science fiction story a reality," said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Lab.

The robots also have a database of what inventory is in stock at the store, so they can let customers know if something is out of stock or not.

"People can come in with a random screw and say Mr. Robot, I need more of these, and if we do have it in the store, they can find it," Nel said. The robots can speak in English and Spanish.

Orbital Science's Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Lift off (video)

Pentagon Strikes Deal With Lockheed for $4.3 Billion F-35 LRIP-8: 29 American F-35s, 4 British, 4 Japanese, 2 Italian, 2 Israeli & 2 Norweigan

The US Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have agreed in principle to the next yearly production contract for 43 F-35s worth $4.3 billion that lowers average unit costs by 3.6%.

The announcement is expected to be followed by a signed contract in the “coming weeks”, Lockheed says.

The promised, 3.6% unit cost reduction comes a year after Lockheed signed a $3.9 million contract for 35 F-35s in the seventh year of low-rate initial production (LRIP).

That number implies that the average unit cost across all three variants has declined from $111.4 million in LRIP-7 to about $107 million in LRIP-8.

Lockheed officials are not able to confirm the actual unit cost average until the contract is signed.

That total does not include the cost of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

The LRIP-8 contract includes orders for 29 US fighters and 14 international fighters, including the UK’s four F-35Bs, Japan’s four F-35As and two F-35A’s each for Israel, Italy and Norway. The US Department of Defense is buying 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs.

More than 200 F-35s are now under contract for delivery through the end of Fiscal 2016.

Cenomanian Cretaceous Paleobotany Fossils From Italy

Cretaceous conifers and angiosperms from the Bonarelli Level; Reassessment of Massalongo's plant fossil collections of “Monte Colle”, Lessini Mountains, northern Italy


Gomez et al


The lost plant fossil and fish locality of “Monte Colle”, near the village of Bolca, Verona province, northern Italy has been considered to be of Eocene age since the middle of the nineteenth century. However, upon re-examination of the plant fossils, especially the specimens of Aularthrophyton Massalongo, which closely resemble the fossil conifer Frenelopsis Schenk, led us to suspect that a Cretaceous age was more probable. Fieldwork to re-evaluate the local stratigraphy, and the identification of the radiolarians Crucella cachensis Pessagno and Patellula helios (Squinabol) within the matrix of surviving hand specimens, all definitively show that the fossil bed actually belongs to the uppermost Cenomanian Bonarelli Level. With this revised age, we properly describe the gross morphology of the surviving plant specimens and reinterpret their identifications and affinities. Frenelopsis petraepurae comb. nov., Geinitzia sp., and a single angiosperm leaf type are described and the consequences for nomenclature outlined. Comparisons with coeval Cretaceous plant taxa are also discussed.

Simulating Titan’s paleoclimate

Simulations of Titan’s paleoclimate


Lora et al


We investigate the effects of varying Saturn’s orbit on the atmospheric circulation and surface methane distribution of Titan. Using a new general circulation model of Titan’s atmosphere, we simulate its climate under four characteristic configurations of orbital parameters that correspond to snapshots over the past 42 kyr, capturing the amplitude range of long-period cyclic variations in eccentricity and longitude of perihelion. The model, which covers pressures from the surface to 0.5 mbar, reproduces the present-day temperature profile and tropospheric superrotation. In all four simulations, the atmosphere efficiently transports methane poleward, drying out the low- and mid-latitudes, indicating that these regions have been desert-like for at least tens of thousands of years. Though circulation patterns are not significantly different, the amount of surface methane that builds up over either pole strongly depends on the insolation distribution; in the present-day, methane builds up preferentially in the north, in agreement with observations, where summer is milder but longer. The same is true, to a lesser extent, for the configuration 14 kyr ago, while the south pole gains more methane in the case for 28 kyr ago, and the system is almost symmetric 42 kyr ago. This confirms the hypothesis that orbital forcing influences the distribution of surface liquids, and that the current observed asymmetry could have been partially or fully reversed in the past. The evolution of the orbital forcing implies that the surface reservoir is transported on timescales of ∼30 kyr, in which case the asymmetry reverses with a period of ∼125 kyr. Otherwise, the orbital forcing does not produce a net asymmetry over longer timescales, and is not a likely mechanism for generating the observed dichotomy.

Europeans Remained Lactose Intolerant for 5,000 Years After Adopting Agriculture

By analysing DNA extracted from the petrous bones of skulls of ancient Europeans, scientists have identified that these peoples remained intolerant to lactose (natural sugar in the milk of mammals) for 5,000 years after they adopted agricultural practices and 4,000 years after the onset of cheese-making among Central European Neolithic farmers.

The findings published online in the scientific journal Nature Communications (21 Oct) also suggest that major technological transitions in Central Europe between the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age were also associated with major changes in the genetics of these populations.

For the study, the international team of scientists examined nuclear ancient DNA extracted from thirteen individuals from burials from archaeological sites located in the Great Hungarian Plain, an area known to have been at the crossroads of major cultural transformations that shaped European prehistory. The skeletons sampled date from 5,700 BC (Early Neolithic) to 800 BC (Iron Age).

Eopengornis martini: a new Enantiornithine From China's Hauterivian Cretaceous Jehol Biota

Insights into the evolution of rachis dominated tail feathers from a new basal enantiornithine (Aves: Ornithothoraces)


Wang et al


We report on a new enantiornithine Eopengornis martini gen. et sp. nov. from the lowest horizon of the Jehol Biota in Hebei, China; dated at 130.7 Mya, this is the second oldest avian bearing fossil deposit in the world, recording the First Appearance Datum of Enantiornithes. The new specimen, only the second enantiornithine and third bird reported from this horizon, preserves numerous synapomorphies with the largest Lower Cretaceous enantiornithine Pengornis houi from the Jiufotang Formation dated at 120 Mya. Together, they form a new avian lineage that lasted over 10 Myr, which is longer than any known clade of Lower Cretaceous enantiornithine. Eopengornis reveals new information about basal enantiornithine morphology such as the presence of a metatarsal V, helping to clarify the early evolution of these dominant Cretaceous avians. Furthermore, Eopengornis preserves a previously unrecognized tail morphology: a pair of elongate fully pennaceous rachis dominated feathers. This discovery confirms hypotheses proposing that the rachis dominated racket-plumes in basal birds represent modified pennaceous feathers. We suggest that the ornamental racket-plumes in enantiornithines and Confuciusornis evolved independently from the basal pygostylian condition, which we infer was a tail formed of normal flight feathers.