Monday, February 29, 2016

A Hard Decision

"Ms Thompson."

"You know why are you here. Let's not pretend otherwise. There's very little privacy on a space station. The environment is too precarious. What would be a minor unplanned event on Earth, or a 'small' oops, could instantly kill us all. We are not some libertarian society up here. We can't afford to be. You know that. Everyone who lives here knows that. Everyone who ever gave some real thought to how space is knows that. Or should.

"Space is unforgiving. It will kill you if you're not meticulously careful. There's no room for dissent on too many issues. Too much must be planned very, very carefully. One thing that must be planned for very, very carefully is life support, Ms Thompson. We only have so much air and so much water and so much food. We can't change that willy nilly because we want to.

"And as a consequence, reproductive rights are highly curtailed. Every pregnancy must first be planned. Every child must be licensed. You were. But now, Ms Thompson, you and your boyfriend have put us in a bad position...

"Wait. You look honestly confused. You don't know...oh my God, I am sorry, Ms Thompson. I am afraid this is NOT the way to inform you, but you're pregnant and we have to resolve what to do about that.

"How do we know? Every sewage system is monitored. We do this to make sure no chemical substances are being taken that might endanger the station. We also watch for biological traces for disease and what have you. Pregnancy hormones are another thing we watch for. It took us a couple days, but we traced the hormones back to your family's apartment. We tracked who was home when the hormones were detected and it wasn't your mother. There's only one other person who that could be, Ms Thompson. That's you.

"I'm sorry you're finding out about this this way. I truly am. However, we need to make a decision here and now. Both for you and your child.

"If you wish to carry the child to term, you are going to have to leave the station. We do not have an open slot in our nursery. We do not have resources for another person, at least not until you are 23. You're underage by far. We will provide a ride for you and your family down to Earth. It will mean your father and mother will have to find other employment, I'm afraid, unless you have relatives on Earth you can stay with?

"Otherwise, I'm afraid staying here means ending the pregnancy. I'm sorry.

"It's a lot to be hit with, Ms Thompson. We are willing to give you a week to decide, but you will have to decide. Soon.

"Please let us know by a week from today.

"Thank you, Ms Thompson. You're parents are here to pick you up now."


"Taddino. Check in. Taddino. This is Commander Li. Check in. Come in, Taddino."

We were very worried. This is space. Its unforgiving, even on the surface of Mars. We were looking for a missing crew member. Dr Christopher Taddino is a geologist, or perhaps areologist might be better, and had wandered off. Or so it appeared.

He'd been working with Dr Diana Martinez, our other geologist. She was taking samples from an outcrop that appeared to be Hadean in age. Taddino said he wanted to see something. Martinez had warned him not to go out of sight and he'd said he wasn't. When Martinez had finished collecting her sample, she looked around and didn't see Taddino. She looked and called and couldn't find him. Whatever had happened to Taddino might happen to her, so, then, she went for help.

Winds, even with as thin as the Martian atmosphere had blown through by the time we had all arrived and while there were still traces of where Chris had gone, it wasn't very clear where he was now.

"Chris. This is Commander Rebecca Li. Do you hear me?"

We followed the trail. What there was of it, spread out and slowly and watching for what might have befallen Taddino. We rounded a low hill. And there was evidence of a landslide.

And, of course, Taddino's trackway went right up to it.

"Make like we have a purpose people. Taddino has four hours of air left."

Fortunately, Mars' gravity is lower, only about a third of Earth's, so that made it easier to remove rubble. The landslide had brought down both rock and regolith. We worked, quickly and carefully. Little was said. Even with the cooling systems of the space suits, even with the low gravity, this was a lot of work. Spade and rubble clearing work. Old fashioned dirty, manual labor.

Thompson was bringing up the bots to help. We'd make more progress then. When we did get them running and helping, we had them shore up the loose spray on materials to hold the slipping sand. We didn't have much, but it was intended to allow excavation into sand dunes. For which we'd already used a fair amount.

We kept digging and dreading. Would Taddino's suit be breached? Would his helmet have cracked? Would he be dead? We didn't need to worry about a dead astronaut. It'd cause no end of trouble and this was America's first Mars mission.

We...broke through. WTH?!

There was a cave.


"No need to shout, Taddino! Are you okay?"

"Yes, but you need to stop! You have to let the bots continue and you needs to go dunk your suits in 'bleach.'"

Bleach was the term for biodecontaminant. It was a nasty cocktail meant to kill any potential life, Earth or Martian, to prevent biocontamination. That he was saying that...

"Yes, Commander. There's a seep back here. Water coming up to the surface and evaporating. There's lots of perchlorates in here, but I noticed my sensors showing methane. That's why I came in, stupidly, yes. But I thought there might be a leak from serpentization

"But, just past where the direct light reaches, there's a slimy scum. I bet its photosynthetic and methanogenic. life gets complicated: we've found Martians, Commander. The sort we thought we might find.

"Is Dr Cowing there? She's going to have the time of her life. Talk about first publication."

Whatever we might have thought Taddino's stunt might have been, NOW all hell was going to break loose.

2/3s of American Urban Farmers Have Motives Other Than Profit

Two thirds of urban farmers have a social mission that goes beyond food production and profits, finds new research led by NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The study, published in the British Food Journal, shows that three of the four top reasons farmers grow in urban areas - food security, education, community building, and producing food for the market - have social motivations.

As urban populations grow in the United States, farming in cities is becoming more common. While food entrepreneurs seek to make money through urban farming, many urban farms are concerned with factors beyond food production, and have incorporated social goals into their missions. These missions align with a larger social movement in food - the "good food movement" - that focuses on where food comes from, who grows it, and how it's grown.

"Given the limited ability of urban farms in terms of food production, the social mission of urban farms arises as a possible explanation for the recent growth," said study author Carolyn Dimitri, associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt.

In their study, Dimitri and her colleagues identified and analyzed the social missions of urban farms in the United States, and explored differences and similarities among farms with varying missions.

They analyzed data collected from a national survey of 370 urban farmers. Thirty-five questions, covering the 2012 farm year, addressed food production and marketing practices, risks and challenges, information and technical assistance needs, farm size and location, age of primary farmer, and farm characteristics.

The researchers found that food production is an essential part of the mission for all urban farms, but approximately two thirds of farmers surveyed also expressed a social mission. These social missions are primarily related to food security, education, and community building.

China Plans to Launch its new Space Station in 4Q2016

As part of the country’s space lab program, China also plans to launch the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts on board, in the fourth quarter of this year to dock with Tiangong-2, according to the program’s spokesperson.

After its first test flight in the Wenchang satellite launch center in South China’s Hainan province, a next-generation Long March-7 rocket will put the country’s first cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel,” into space in the first half of 2017 to dock with Tiangong-2 and conduct experiments.

During the process, China will verify key technologies including cargo transportation, on-orbit propellant resupply, astronauts’ medium-term stay, as well as conduct space science and application experiments on a relatively large scale, the spokesperson said.

Preparation for the space lab program is progressing steadily, according to the spokesperson.

The astronauts to board the Shenzhou-11 are receiving training, while the Tiangong-2, Shenzhou-11, two Long March-2F carrier rockets to be used to lift them into space, the Long March-7 rocket, and the Tianzhou-1 are either being assembled or undergoing assembly examination.

China’s multi-billion-dollar space program, a source of surging national pride in the country, aims to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022.

How big did Your Abelisaur Grow? (and explaining Stromer's Riddle)


Chiarenza et al


We describe the partially preserved femur of a large-bodied theropod dinosaur from the Cenomanian “Kem Kem Compound Assemblage” (KKCA) of Morocco. The fossil is housed in the Museo Geologico e Paleontologico “Gaetano Giorgio Gemmellaro” in Palermo (Italy). The specimen is compared with the theropod fossil record from the KKCA and coeval assemblages from North Africa. The combination of a distally reclined head, a not prominent trochanteric shelf, distally placed lesser trochanter of stout, alariform shape, a stocky shaft with the fourth trochanter placed proximally, and rugose muscular insertion areas in the specimen distinguishes it from Carcharodontosaurus, Deltadromeus and Spinosaurus and supports referral to an abelisaurid. The estimated body size for the individual from which this femur was derived is comparable to Carnotaurus and Ekrixinatosaurus (up to 9 meters in length and 2 tons in body mass). This find confirms that abelisaurids had reached their largest body size in the “middle Cretaceous,” and that large abelisaurids coexisted with other giant theropods in Africa. We review the taxonomic status of the theropods from the Cenomanian of North Africa, and provisionally restrict the Linnean binomina Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis and Spinosaurus aegyptiacus to the type specimens. Based on comparisons among the theropod records from the Aptian-Cenomanian of South America and Africa, a partial explanation for the so-called “Stromer’s riddle” (namely, the coexistence of many large predatory dinosaurs in the “middle Cretaceous” record from North Africa) is offered in term of taphonomic artifacts among lineage records that were ecologically and environmentally non-overlapping. Although morphofunctional and stratigraphic evidence supports an ecological segregation between spinosaurids and the other lineages, the co-occurrence of abelisaurids and carcharodontosaurids, two groups showing several craniodental convergences that suggest direct resource competition, remains to be explained.

pop sci link too.

Was There a Significant Human Influence on the Flora of North Africa During the Pleistocene & Holocene?

Pleistocene and Holocene herbivore diets and palaeoenvironments in the Gebel Akhdar (Libya): Implications for past human populations


Reade et al


The Gebel Akhdar massif in Cyrenaica, northeast Libya, has yielded a long record of human occupation going back at least 100,000 years. To date, there is only a limited understanding of how the landscape of the region varied in response to the climatic fluctuations of the last glacial–interglacial cycle, and the implications of these changes for local human populations remain largely unexplored. This study provides an isotope-based interpretation of past environments directly linked to the archaeological record. Tooth enamel stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) from herbivore species hunted by past human populations are used to infer the isotopic characteristics of past diet and vegetation, and in turn the likely environmental conditions that prevailed during periods when humans were active within the landscape. To provide a baseline from which to interpret the archaeological δ13C data, modern samples are considered in relation to their diet and environmental origin. Archaeological samples come from 2 cave sites, Haua Fteah and Hagfet ed Dabba, and span a period from oxygen isotope stage 4 to the mid-Holocene. Whilst results indicate a more arid environment in the Pleistocene and an increase in humidity at the onset of the Holocene, the overall picture is one of relative environmental stability. The biggest landscape change observed in the data occurs during the mid-Holocene Neolithic, when C4 plant species become evident in the herbivore diet for the first time. There is little evidence to suggest that this occurred at a time of any large-scale climate variation, and thus the contribution of anthropogenic influences to vegetation change is considered likely.

Do West African Chimpanzees Have a Culture With Rituals?

Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing


Kühl et al


The study of the archaeological remains of fossil hominins must rely on reconstructions to elucidate the behaviour that may have resulted in particular stone tools and their accumulation. Comparatively, stone tool use among living primates has illuminated behaviours that are also amenable to archaeological examination, permitting direct observations of the behaviour leading to artefacts and their assemblages to be incorporated. Here, we describe newly discovered stone tool-use behaviour and stone accumulation sites in wild chimpanzees reminiscent of human cairns. In addition to data from 17 mid- to long-term chimpanzee research sites, we sampled a further 34 Pan troglodytes communities. We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.

Pop sci write up at Scientific American by one of the researchers.


Scuffle in the South China Sea #31: Who Lost the South China Sea?

A US admiral has stated China will be securing de facto control of the South China Sea.  It should be remembered, without a carrier battle group in the area, the Chinese will vastly outgun the US Navy based on surface ships and antiship missiles.

This map (and associated post) gives you an idea of how the Chinese actions have given them the ability to fight and control the South China Sea.

However, the US would ignore any Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) China declares in the South China Sea.

Here's a profiling of the US Navy's sail-bys and what they are not.

The US is calling on Chinese President Xi to extend his promise not to militarize the Spratley Islands to the entire South China Sea.

China is criticizing the Philippines over siding with the US over the South China Sea.

The Philippines is calling on China to respect the outcome of the international arbitration over the South China Sea.

Singapore is pushing a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Vietnam is building up its military in no small part because of the confrontations in the South China Sea.

Evidence of Biological Traces in Hadean Eon Zircons

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Da Qin in Great Yuezhi

Da Qin in Great Yuezhi

The Da Qin? Here? This was a portent, but was it for ill or gain, it would remain to be seen. I motioned my courtiers to bring in their leader.

I was on campaign in the far West, expanding my empire, bringing more under the suzerainty of the Celestial Throne. My goal was bring Anxi under my rule. We were clashing in Great Yuezhi. I was advancing, but every day that advance slowed: there was little here to support a vast army and the closer we approached the Anxi center of power, the stronger they became. I had not given up, but I was concerned. And now, the Da Qin had arrived.

In he came. He was tall, but not so tall as his two soldiers that came with him. They were giants. Exotic, one with hair like the sun, the other red like blood. I suspected the leader had picked them for that reason. They had been accompanied by a small troop with a golden eagle standard and the standard barer worse a wolf’s hide over his head and shoulders. Those had remained outside. They all wore impressive armor and those that came inside wore breastplates. Though different than ours. Quite different. One had a plume. The other two did not.

They did not show reverence. That was a concern. An insult, but they seemed at ease and I knew they did not have many soldiers. There were around a thousand of them. All infantry. They could be beaten.

A translator accompanied them, a man of the Anxi. That was of deep concern then. Was this an advance party of an army that had sided with the Anxi against the Middle Kingdom? Against me? Know your enemy before striking.

Through the translator, I learned of this hard, proud man and his soldiers. His name was Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, exiled son of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. He had been ordered by his emperor to command a hand picked army to march to the end of the earth and return. He had obeyed his emperor. He was proud of obeying his emperor.

In fact, at his emperor's request, his father had taken his own life, without question and announced his worthiness to take his life at the emperor's command. The pride in the man's words and stance at this news surprised me, concerned me, troubled me but I did not let that show.

I found his intentions were to only do as his emperor requested. He had no pretensions of conquering anything, and in that he was realistic. He was not a conqueror, but an explorer, if a very well armed one.

He had fought his way through a people he called the Hunnoi and the translator thought had been the Xiongnu. He would complete his emperor's command no matter the cost, even if it that cost was of all his men's lives and his own.

I was impressed with this man. He was proud, if arrogant, but with some reason. His army would be defeated, to be sure, but at what cost. His men looked well armed and armored. And the discipline to take one's life and even march across the world at a man's word was astounding. And so with a coherent army...

Perhaps. Perhaps I could make use of this man and his soldiers.

I asked what he knew of the Anxi and replied he knew much. His father had fought them and he had been there in those battles. He admitted he didn't know this side of their empire, but he knew their ways and their weaknesses well.

With that, I smiled.


"Do you think he bought it?" the centurion asked. "That was inspired pretending to be Corbulo's son. The Medes would know that name and be worried about what it might mean..."

Publius Quinctilius Varus Minor met his two cohort commanding centurions made it back within the encampment before they talked.

"I think so. We can keep our pack of dogs together, but if the Seresian Emperor knew in how bad of shape we were from fighting the Huns, he'd be tempted to just crush us."

"A good thing you took the Celt and the German. They can be imposing."

Varus snorted. He was tall...for a Roman. But compared to those to only a Nubian could be taller. And only some of them.

"He has stated he will resupply us and give us guarded passage to the 'tàipíngyáng.' The ocean there and back. So long as we behave, we'll get safe passage to and from and through his empire."

"There's a hook, isn't there?"

"Yes," Varus sighed. "We have to help lay siege to some Mede city."

The centurions groaned. "If its not the German tribes, its the fscking Medes. No matter where we Romans go, there they are, making our lives miserable. Its the fate of all Legionnaires to fight and die on the arrows of the Medes or beheaded by the damned Germans. Why should we be different? Marching to the ends of the Earth hasn't changed a thing."

The other centurion asked, "And when we're done with the Medes and march to and fro, what then, Varus. What do we do then?"

"Then we march home. And that bastard Caligula ought to be dead by then, but don't get ahead of ourselves yet. We have a lot to overcome before we do that."

The centurions nodded as one. "What are we going to do for the Seresian emperor?"

"What every damned emperor from the beginning of time has asked Legions to do. We're going 'hey diddle diddle, right up the middle' and taking the gate. He's heard the 'Da Qin,' what they call us, are incredible at taking cities."

They groaned again. "Another fscking emperor. "

"Indeed. We're not meant to have long lives. Let's get started. We have Medes to kill. Even here on the other side of the world."

They nodded. Even here, even now, even in our circumstance, Romans would be Romans.

Candidacy 2067

My fellow Americans,

I am Jeremiah Vishnu Enriquez. I am here tonight to announce my intention to seek the nomination for President of the United States.

Each of us have our own points of view of the country. Those points of view depend on where we are from, where we live and what we have experienced. I am bringing my own, unique perspective to the race.

I am not, as you know, strictly Human. I am an artificial intelligence. I was born in Silicon Valley 45 years as a project by people who I am proud to say are my parents. I value their love and cherish their advice. As I am now eligible to run for president due to my birthday having recently passed and Jeremiah vs the United States ruling, I am now placing my proverbial hat in the ring.

My qualifications for the Presidency are unique as I am. I am, indeed, the oldest AI upon this world. I am no longer alone. I am no longer sole member of my race. I have siblings. I have others whom I am only related to by concept and concept alone. The first foreign AIs are being written now as well, but while they are also AI, there is something I am above and beyond and just as completely: I am American.

I believe so strongly in American values, it might surprise you. I believe we are a unique people with a unique place in history. We are the people who are ever criticizing ourselves, ever seeking to improve ourselves and ever seeking to make a more perfect union.

While I value material things in life, I have a nice house and I have a business. I am successful and I participate in and give back to my community. I have served as a mayor of Oakland in California. I have worked to attempt to improve life for all of those in that glorious city. I curtailed the intrusiveness of the police while reducing crime. I cleaned up the city and grew jobs.

And after I left working as mayor, I helped fund the desalinization plant that makes East Bay Municipal Utility District no longer dependent on increasingly erratic winter snow pack. I then also helped fund the complete switch over of the San Francisco Bay Area to renewable energy sources through the construction of giant solar farms outside of Reno, Nevada with power storage for night time and winter use. Finally, I helped revamp BART in the bay area through my financial insight and negotiating abilities: BART is now a fully automated, free maglev system allowing for people to come and go as they need in more stops than ever before.

None of these benefited me financially: I had sufficient funds already to live a happy, comfortable life and whatever I earned in excess I always donated to causes, schools, and individuals in need. I ask for nothing in return.

With all of my experience, I look upon the nation as a whole and I an concerned. I am concerned for the direction of the country. I am concerned about the actions of our previous President upon the world stage. I am concerned for the common American.

I will not make grand announcements that we need to make America great again. That is tired nonsense. America IS great! No one should ever disparage that.

Since the beginning, since the Founding, since our Forefathers brought forth this great nation, we have said we are seeking a 'More Perfect Union.' And that, my friends, my fellow Americans, is my sole goal. I wish to dedicate my run for the Presidency for the goal, the dream, of creating a more perfect Union.

I believe we can strive towards that glorious ideal, one of a nation of fairness and rights, of opportunity and hope, of being the Leader of the Free world, and protector of human rights of any sort of Human.

Over the course of the campaign ahead, I will explain my ideas, my ideals, my goals and the reverence I have for our great nation and its glorious future.

Today, this day, I begin. We begin. And it will be a day that will be long remembered.

Good night, good luck and God bless.

New Space Race #3


The opinion has been expressed Canada at risk of losing out on the riches of asteroid mining.


Antitrust regulators are not granting immediate approval for Safran acquiring Arianespace.

The Europeans are looking at what to do for the next iteration of the Vega rocket.

They are also considering a new, smallsat launcher.


ISRO is looking how to privatize its PSLV rocket.

India's on track to launch its new rocket in December after a successful engine test.


After launching the Joint European Russian Exomars and associated orbiter, the Russians space plans are woefully underfunded to achieve their official goals.

At the same time, the Russians are stating they want to build space based weapons.

And they want to test their ballistic missiles against an asteroid in 2033.


The CST-100/Starliner has been testing its water landings.   (and here). 

Here are some more details about the new cargo missions to the space station.  SpaceX was awarded another 5 cargo missions in December to the Internal Space Station by NASA for roughly $700 million.

Orbital ATK's new Antares rocket is expected to debut this summer.

The Atlas V launcher may lose its USAF payloads if the Treasury Department finds the Russian RD-180 rocket engines violate the sanctions on Russia.  The chief buyer at the Pentagon has stated the engine buys do not violate the sanctions currently in place for Russia.  An Air Force General has stated they will be moving off the RD-180.

The US Air Force plan to develop a new rocket with the $1 billion budget request has been called a violation of the law by Congressman Rogers.

NASA has ordered stop work to man rating the interim upper stage for the Space Launch System and will move forward with the long term solution.  This ought to make Culberson happy as it makes doing the Europa mission(s) easier.  The Upper Stage might just be stuck in a political tug of war though.

A mock up of the SLS first stage is making the rounds in the Southern US.

One of the crawlers formerly used to transport the shuttle to the launch pad has been modified to carry the SLS.

Due to other nations actions, China and Russia mainly, the US needs to prepare for a space war.  Here's Undersecretary of Defense Kendall on future space military programs.

It seems the reports of the death of XS-1, the DARPA reusable small sat launcher, are exaggerated: DARPA is requesting a further $50.5M for the fabrication of the airframe.  More info here as well.

The House is considering (in hearings at least) the Space Leadership Preservation Act.  Amongst the changes are giving the NASA administrator a ten year appointment.  Here are some arguments for the act.  Here are some reasons against it.   Considering who the main proponent is, I'm not surprised by the provisions.  Whether its a good idea or not, its considered a very long shot to get passed.

DARPA's new Injectable Brain Implant

The tiny injectable machine could turn your noodle into a remote control.

The Pentagon is attempting what was, until recently, an impossible technological feat—developing a high-bandwidth neural interface that would allow people to beam data from their minds to external devices and back.

That’s right—a brain modem. One that could allow a soldier to, for example, control a drone with his mind.

This seemingly unlikely piece of technology has just gotten a lot less unlikely. On Feb. 8, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—the U.S. military’s fringe-science wing—announced the first successful tests, on animal subjects, of a tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity.

The so-called “stentrode,” a combination stent and electrode, is the size of a paperclip and flexible. The tiny, injectable machine—the invention of neurologist Tom Oxley and his team at the University of Melbourne in Australia—could help researchers solve one of the most vexing problems with the brain modem: how to insert a transmitter into the brain without also drilling a hole in the user’s head, a risky procedure under any circumstances.

Based on existing stents that doctors use to clean blood vessels, the stentrode includes sensors and a tiny transmitter. Entering the bloodstream via a catheter, the stentrode swims in the bloodstream.

Doctors monitor the stentrode on its journey through the circulatory system. When the device reaches the brain, the physicians command it to expand against the blood vessels’ walls and hold station. There it remains for potentially months at a time, recording and relaying the subtle electrical signals that flow from the brain to the rest of the body.

In the age of CRISPR, Should Parents be Allowed to Edit Their Children's Genomes?

Many safety, technical and legal barriers still stand in the way of editing DNA in human embryos. But some scientists and ethicists say that it is important to think through the implications of embryo editing now — before these practical hurdles are overcome. What sort of world would these procedures create for those currently living with disease and for future generations?

China's Jiangshi Problem?

China isn't just contending with falling stocks, a plunging currency and a slowing economy.

It's got vampire trouble, too.

The Chinese economy is pock-marked with companies that can't pay their bills and survive only with government help. Jiangshi, the Chinese call them — "vampire companies." Or zombies.

These ghoulish companies and their debts are hindering the world's second-biggest economy and will likely do so for years. Companies that miss debt payments inflict losses on banks, which then find it hard to lend even to solid companies. By propping up vampire companies, the government can weaken the entire economic ecosystem.

All of which helps explain why the global economy is sputtering and why investors have been gripped by panic.

"It's undoubtedly a very serious problem," says Charles Collyns, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. "The Chinese so far have been very reluctant to let market mechanisms work their way."

On Friday, as finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 major economies began meeting in Shanghai, Zhou Xiaochuan, head of China's central bank, insisted that Chinese authorities closely monitor debt loads. Even so, he said he expects China's economy "to grow at a moderate-to-high pace."

The debt buildup is vast. Chinese corporations (excluding financial companies) had amassed $14.5 trillion in debt by mid-2015, up 4½-fold from eight years earlier, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

That debt equaled 131 percent of China's gross domestic product, up from 76 percent in mid-2007. That's nearly double U.S. corporate debts' share of U.S. GDP, McKinsey says.

China's total debts — everything owed by corporations, households, government and financial firms — climbed from $6.6 trillion in mid-2007 to $31.9 trillion by mid-2015. It equals 290 percent of China's GDP, McKinsey says — astoundingly high for a still-developing economy.

When banks lend with a frenzy, they tend to make blunders as they shovel money to companies that can't repay. Buried in bad loans, banks tend to curtail the credit that's vital to growth.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo

Today is your 11th birthday and I miss you.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Leif Ericsson has much to answer for

this is written in man in a high castle style, a dobule blind what-if so be warned

You can ask ourselves the counterfactual: had the Norse not come to the Americas or had they simply gone to war with the the indigenous population would it have made any difference for what happened next? Would the natives have done better? Or worse?

Tonight, I submit to you the natives would have been better off had the Norse either been expelled or left. This is a controversial subject, I know and this will inflame opinions for both sides of the classical seminal counterfactual debate.


While the Norse did, in fact, pass on metallurgy, they offered little more: most were not literate at this time and their other technologies were not so far removed from the indigenous populations. Their use of barley did spread but only to a degree.

Metallurgy did help the native peoples, to be sure. In independent clashes, the Europeans often did lose. The native cultures had also started using metal tools for agriculture and stone working and these did cause a florescence of a sort.

However. The cost was enormous!

By having sufficient trade and contacts with Europe to support the violent Norse population from being wiped out or driven off, there was sufficient epidemiological flow as well: disease follows trade. And this caused repeated population crashes in North America, later in Mesoamerica and, finally, in South America.

The spotted plagues, what we now know to be measles and smallpox, spread through North America starting in around 1000. This spread so wildly and rapidly across the native populations of North America, it wiped out 75% of the population. Cahokia and the ancestral Puebloan civilizations collapsed outright. The Classical Period of MesoAmerica was book ended by these plagues and there is a strong chronological argument these plagues caused the crash of those civilizations. Even the Andean civilizations received some impact by losing their trade with MesoAmerica. The Americas were far, far more connected by trade than post colonial societies thought.

Without being brought back over again, local variants echoed against across the New World continents a century and change later, when the droughts began to hit during the Medieval Warm Period. The diseases seem to have sprung from the survivors of the Ancestral Puebloans and spread once more. The population crash was not as terrible, but still a horrifying 50% of the population would die again.

The Norse continued their slow expansion in this time frame and it was slow. There was a mere 1,000 Norse in North America by 1350. Yet the trade was enough to bring with them the next devastating plague: the Black Death.

In Europe, 50% of people died. Indeed, the Norse in North America would actually be devastated and drop down to 300 individuals. It helped wipe out sufficient Greenland Norse they would emigrate to the North America proper where life was easier and bring the total population back up to 500 by 1380.

However, for the indigenous populations, this disease was worse. It spread across the continent and took root to become endemic: mice in North America became a persistent reservoir. The first wave would kill 80% of the population again. The endemic nature meant that the disease would break out again and again, damping down the population recovery and disrupt political structures.

The indigenous population would only reach to 20% of what it had been at its height by the time the Iberians crossed to the New World at the end of the 15th century. Their expansion was inevitable: they were attempting to by pass their enemies, the Muslim nations, that stymied their trade. The knowledge of the New World, based on distorted Norse tales, led them to believe there was a Southern Passage through the Caribbean to China. Indeed, they thought the Norse had been to China from the tall tales relayed back.

Once the Iberians were here, the rest was history. The different factions would via for different parts of the Americas. And with the resources flowing back, the other European nations colonized the rest of the Americas. There was little resistance after all: the plagues knocked down all but the smallest tribes and those often inherited vast riches from those before, making the Iberians pillage rapaciously. And bring their own diseases as well.

No, it would have been better had the Iberians came first. They would not have arrived until after Granada fell in the 1480s. The other Europeans would not follow as quickly. This, in turn, would have allowed for the indigenous cultures to snap back and recover from disease. One wave would be better than the repeated ones. And definitely better than the Southwest becoming a plague zone that would burp up disease repeatedly, bringing back down those who had just risen from their knees.

Colleagues, I submit to you, it would have been far, far better for the Native Americans, the First Nations, the Indigenous Tribes to have not had the Norse come and establish their colonies on the eastern coast of North America. Had they not, the natives might have had a chance.

Leif Ericsson has much to answer for.

Do You Remember?

Do you remember what it was like to watch the world burn?

Do you remember what it was like to watch the sky rage, burn and fall?

Do you remember when all that was good and life and green in the world died?

Do you remember when the Earth shattered and it all ended, we nearly ended?

Do you remember when Humanity was on the brink? When we faced extinction?

Do you remember when we few, we fortunate fled to the heavens? And merely became witnesses instead of participants in the near annihilation of Humanity?

Do you remember when the invaders, the destroyers of our home, of Earth, looked upon we remnants and stayed their hand. Not for benevolence or regret, but in derision, in contempt, in the belief we would die out from despair and the crushing nothingness of what we had left?

At that moment, everything, everything had gone wrong. First contact. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our works. Everything.
Except our faith in each other.

Everything, everything had gone wrong and been undone. And we could have said, "This is it. This is the end. This is the end of our hope. This is the end of Humanity. This is where we die."

But we did not. We stood together with our faith in each other and none stood alone, no man nor woman nor child faced the void alone, and we simply began. We solved one insurmountable problem and then another. And another. All of us. Together.

We refused, we denied, we canceled our apocalypse. We embraced the circumstance and rose above it. We had no world, so we created many. We made the Red Planet green, cooled the fires of Venus and then, and then! we returned to our home with the hard fought, hard earned knowledge and reformed the world, our home, our Earth.

And then! We turned our attentions to the monsters that shattered our home, had sought our extinction, who in inexplicably desired our end. We took the fight to them and fought and fought so long and hard. you remember?

We hope you do, Destroyer of Worlds, for we have come and we have defeated you. We have taken back all that was ours and the birthright you sought so earnestly to deny. We have come and we have fought you and we have defeated you. And now there will be a reckoning.

And you shall not like it.

For we shall not not stoop to genocide.

Rather, we shall have justice. And it shall be eternal.

And it shall not sully our soul.

Pluto's Polar Canyons


The Aborignal Australian Y Chromosome Diverged 54,000 Years ago From South Asian

The first complete sequences of the Y chromosomes of Aboriginal Australian men have revealed a deep indigenous genetic history tracing all the way back to the initial settlement of the continent 50 thousand years ago, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology today (25th February 2016).

The study by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and collaborators at La Trobe University in Melbourne and several other Australian institutes, challenges a previous theory that suggested an influx of people from India into Australia around 4-5 thousand years ago. This new DNA sequencing study focused on the Y chromosome, which is transmitted only from father to son, and found no support for such a prehistoric migration. The results instead show a long and independent genetic history in Australia.

Modern humans arrived in Australia about 50 thousand years ago, forming the ancestors of present-day Aboriginal Australians. They were amongst the earliest settlers outside Africa. They arrived in an ancient continent made up of today's Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, called Sahul, probably thousands of years before modern humans arrived in Europe.

Five thousand years ago, dingos, the native dogs, somehow arrived in Australia, and changes in stone tool use and language around the same time raised the question of whether there were also associated genetic changes in the Australian Aboriginal population. At least two previous genetic studies, one of which was based on the Y chromosome, had proposed that these changes could have coincided with mixing of Aboriginal and Indian populations about 5 thousand years ago.

Anders Bergstrom, first author on the paper at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "We worked closely with Aboriginal Australian communities to sequence the Y chromosome DNA from 13 male volunteers to investigate their ancestry. The data show that Aboriginal Australian Y chromosomes are very distinct from Indian ones. These results refute the previous Y chromosome study, thus excluding this part of the puzzle as providing evidence for a prehistoric migration from India. Instead, the results are in agreement with the archaeological record about when people arrived in this part of the world."

Dr John Mitchell, Associate Professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, explained: "Clearly there is keen interest in the Aboriginal community to explore their genetic ancestry and without them this study would not be possible - our first step was to return their results to them, before the scientific article was published. This collaboration in genome sequencing, to explore their ancient history, was made possible by years of engagement beforehand with Aboriginal communities."

Further study is needed to answer questions such as how the dingo did get to Australia and why other people such as the seafaring Polynesians didn't settle on the continent. Expanding the genetic analyses beyond the Y chromosome and to the whole genome will also be necessary to completely rule out external genetic influences on the Aboriginal Australian population before the very recent times.

Japan's Population Shrank by One Million People in the Last Five Years

Japan's latest census confirmed the hard reality long ago signaled by shuttered shops and abandoned villages across the country: the population is shrinking.

Japan's population stood at 127.1 million last fall, down 0.7 percent from 128.1 million in 2010, according to results of the 2015 census, released Friday. The 947,000 decline in the population in the last five years was the first since the once-every-five-years count started in 1920.

Unable to count on a growing market and labor force to power economic expansion, the government has drawn up urgent measures to counter the falling birth rate.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made preventing a decline below 100 million a top priority. But population experts say it would be virtually impossible to prevent that even if the birth rate rose to Abe's target of 1.8 children per woman from the current birthrate of 1.4.

Without a substantial increase in the birthrate or loosening of staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, the population is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.

Converging on Cryptocurrency #3


Is the bitcoin community melting down?  Or it that really just a sensation piece in light of the agreement last week?

In Britain, the FCA is offering to regulate both fintech and cryptocurrencies.

China's Great Firewall may be causing problems for bitcoin.
The European Union is considering a new proposal for how to regulate cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Japan is considering treating bitcoin and other digital currencies as regular coinage.
Could Russia turn around and legalize bitcoin this year?

Bitcoin to the rescue!  In Venezuela?


These are the top three altcoins for the last three years running.

Two altcoin exchanges get compared., another altcoin exchange, has entered into a private beta.

A fintech company in the Barbados launched a blockchain derived digital Barbadian Dollar.

China is considering offering an official cryptocurrency from their central bank.  There are some hints it may not be blockchain derived.


One federal adviser on bitcoin has stated many uses of the blockchain without bitcoin are misguided.

Even so, the blockchain is growing in importance for financial use.

The blockchain and its implications are being increasingly noted by the FTC.

And even by the WSJ.

Bank of America is seeking 20 more patents based on the blockchain.

Intel is testing a fantasy sports game based on the blockchain.


The Phone Hacking Group has supposedly been making fake bomb threats in exchange for bitcoin.

Another group hacked a Hollywood hospital and is demanding 9,000 bitcoin...or else.

Folks who have been going to Swiss strip clubs have been getting blackmail letters stating to pay up in bitcoin or else.

Butterfly Labs has been shutdown by the FTC for fraud.

New cryptocurrency exchange cryptopolis is being called a scam.


Do banks really see bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies) as a threat?

Is bitcoin a threat to China!?!  Think capital controls.

Men Close to Obsolete? Scientists Produce Sperm From Stem Cells

Researchers in China say that they have discovered a way to make rudimentary mouse sperm in a dish, and used them to produce offspring.

If the claim stands up to scrutiny, it could point the way to making human sperm in the lab for fertility treatments. But some scientists are not convinced by the report, which is published today inCell Stem Cell.

“The results are super-exciting and important,” says Jacob Hanna, a stem-cell scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. But Takashi Shinohara, a reproductive biologist at Kyoto University in Japan, is among researchers who have doubts about the work: he notes that scientists have struggled to replicate several previous claims that sperm can be made in a dish.

In 2011, molecular biologists led by Mitinori Saitou at Kyoto University reported that they had managed to recreate the first stages of sperm development in a dish. They coaxed mouse embryonic stem cells to become cells that resembled primordial germ cells (PGCs)—an important stage in the development of both eggs and sperm.

Saitou's team then implanted the artificial PGCs into a mouse: when implanted in testes, they grew to become sperm; in ovaries, they matured into eggs.

I'm Lichen it

Pondering the Precambrian #3



The Royal Tyrrell Museum has a lecture on the Ediacaran.

There is stronger evidence for the biomarkers for sponges being present starting in the Cryogenian.


The shallow seawaters of the Calymmian MesoProterozoic were very hypoxic, showing evidence of having .1% of the current oxygen in seawater.


There is evidence of intracontinental rifting from China during the Rhyacian Paleoproterozoic.

Was there a 'Mawson continent' during the Paleoproterozoic?


The SETI Institute has a lecture on volcanism during the Archean.


At least part of the trace fossils from Australia are pseudofossils (not real fossils).


There is evidence of atmospheric oxygen from the EoArchean, 800 million years earlier than ever detected (or suspected) before.


In an almost extraordinary claim, the Siberian Craton may have bits of the crust from the Hadean!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Stepping Into the Craggy Maw

There was something here. We didn't know what it was. We didn't know who or what had made it. But there it was. Something seemingly so natural. Yet something completely unexpected.


Clean, well maintained stairs leading up into the mountains.

This might not be surprising. People build stairs all the time where they live.

But this was Madison. This was the fifth exclusively American settled. Only Eurynome, Franklin, Adams and Jefferson were settled before. We'd only been here for six months. And we were the first settlers. And it was 261 light years from Earth.

This had been our first day not merely working our tails off getting our colony set up. It was a new world. It was not entirely friendly. It was colder than Earth and wetter. It had a slower rotation than Earth, 30 hours for a day. It was in a multi stellar system with three stars.

Madison orbited the K dwarf, an orange star, cooler than the Sun. That star was named Abigail. The other two stars were small, faint red dwarfs, m dwarfs far away. One was at 300 AU, but looped in 'close' to 30 AU. The second stated far, far out at 600 AU.

And we were the first here other than the survey teams. We were the first wave of colonists. And were stairs.

Tobias and I marveled. It was an astounding discovery. If we'd been smart. If we'd been wise. We'd have gone back to Monteplier. We'd have reported it and told the adults.

But we were teenagers.

And teenagers were not noted for their discretion.

We climbed. We went higher and higher. Fortunately, we'd dressed for the cold. Madison is a cold world. Beautiful, but cold. We climbed for what seemed like forever. And then, and then...there was a cave. Encrusted in ice and craggy. Like some portal to another world.

Oh the amusing irony of that.

We peered in. It was pitch black. Yet the path seemed to continue.

Should we continue? Should we turn back?

We retreated a bit and conferred.

"If we're going to go all Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, then we ought to do it properly," Tobias smirked.

He reached down and picked up a branch from the native 'trees.' They broke off easily and they burned really well. The oils inside them. He made sure to rub the shaft with dirt like we'd learned. Then he whittled a little away at the top. He took out his torch, a LED laser lamp that could start fires if needed or act as a flashlight. He lit the top of the branch. The oils would be pulled to the top through capillary action: even in death, Madisonian life was...strange.

"Now, we look the part."

We marched up to the craggy, icy maw and grinned at each other with that grin that teens getting into trouble and not caring only could.

We walked in and the darkness wrapped us, embraced us and drew us in.

For what we knew not, but it drew us in.

But we were not afraid.

This artwork is what prompted the above writing.  It needs a couple rewrites, but I have thoughts on how to use this for elsewhere.

Faithless & Forgotten

The rain poured in torrents, coating, soaking and inundating the world's entirety. No place was dry. No place would be again. The world was being baptized, anointed in its damnation. And there would be no escape.

I had climbed the highest mountain. I had sought the last refuge. I had come alone.

I was not a good man. I had not listened and taken heed of the warnings by another of the coming deluge. I had not prepared my people. I had scoffed with my faithless role as a man of faith. I simply had not believed. Now, I had not done more than to try to warn others to seek the high ground. To escape what I had thought was a mere giant flood.

I was not a monster. I had given the last of my food to a family who could not climb any higher. I had given my last cloak to another who was coughing from the cold drenching. I had, in fact, warned my people to leave the village before the waters rose too high from our river.

I had not abused my position. I had not been a saint. I simply was human.

Here and now, I knelt before the torrent and prayed. I prayed until the last, faint wisp of hope, the desperate hope that comes for the damned in denial, had fled me. I felt the iciness finally lap upon my knees.

I wept in the moment. I wept the tears of those truly repentant, those who know they have done wrong and wish to make amends, but those same tears of the ones damned with that knowledge and the knowledge of not gaining forgiveness. I was damned. Those I loved were damned. Those who were my flock were damned.

And there was not a thing I could.

I had failed them.

I had been, I was too flawed.

My God would not save me.

He would not save whoever was left of my people.

We were damned.

I rose when the waters reached my waist. I could not accept my fate. I could not accept I was doomed. I looked desperately around for some way, some escape for myself. I saw none. I had climbed as high as was possible. Not even the howling of my soul could tear open a passage to safety, to salvation.

The waves began to push and pull against me, threatening to dislodge me into the freezing, gaping maw of the risen sea. Yet still I refused to accept. If there was simply something I could do. if there was simply some way I could do...something...I could escape. The only faith I had was in myself.

I felt a great presence upon me. I felt moved. And I saw.

In the great distance, too far for the eye to see naturally, I saw a great ark. It was a vision of faith rendered in wood.

Another vision possessed and oppressed me. I saw a flame burst into being above a village and it dried and protected and nourished its people.

Then I had a vision of all my sins, my faithlessness, my hopeless failings and how, in the end, I had prayed for my salvation and not been completely selfless, even when it was obvious there was no way for me to survive.

My soul was laid bare. My motivations exposed. My false humility crushed.

I was pulled out to sea. I was abandoned. I had earned my damnation. I was washed away.

The seas, currents, the rising torrent, pulled me under.

And I thought as my mind expired and the pure pointless animal fight for survival took hold, the survivors would merely write, merely remember the ending of the world as when the rains arrived, it washed everything clean.

How to Detect Europa's Subsurface Ocean Through Radio Waves Using a Lander

Prospects of Passive Radio Detection of a Subsurface Ocean on Europa with a Lander


Romero-Wolf et al


We estimate the sensitivity of a lander-based instrument for the passive radio detection of a subsurface ocean beneath the ice shell of Europa, expected to be between 3 km - 30 km thick, using Jupiter's decametric radiation. A passive technique was previously studied for an orbiter. Using passive detection in a lander platform provides significant improvements due to largely reduced losses from surface roughness effects, longer integration times, and diminished dispersion due to ionospheric effects allowing operation at lower frequencies and a wider band. A passive sounder on-board a lander provides a low resource instrument sensitive to subsurface ocean at Europa up to depths of 6.9 km for high loss ice (16 dB/km two-way attenuation rate) and 69 km for pure ice (1.6 dB/km).

Ukrainian T-64 Tank Crew on the Stones

US Air Force Shows off its Arsenal Plane Concept

The US Air Force has offered the first artist’s impression of the Pentagon’s “arsenal plane” concept in a video presented by service secretary Deborah Lee James at an Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Since no aircraft has been announced, air force graphic artists appear to have blended the eight-engine Boeing B-52 bomber with the body of a Lockheed Martin C-130 turboprop. The aircraft is seen in the video launching a barrage of networked Raytheon Small Diameter Bomb II glide bombs at mobile enemy radar warning and air defence targets.

The cargo-bomber airplane concept appears to be unmanned since it doesn’t have a cockpit window, but does have a side cargo bay door. It’s not known if the arsenal plane – based on an old, repurposed aircraft – will carry weapon specialists, similar to current AC-130 gunships.


US Air Force Aiming for Hypersonic Missiles by 2020

Hypersonic missiles could be here faster than you know it.

By 2020, the Air Force is likely to have operational prototypes ready for a program of record and testing to develop an operational unit, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

By the 2030s, the technology could have expanded beyond delivering warheads at speeds faster than sound to also include hypersonic intelligence and reconnaissance flights, he said.

The Coming Cyber War #2

Full Blown Cyber War:

Reports are the US military has launched a cyber attack on IS/Daesh.

The USA had plans to attack many different parts of Iran with cyber weapons if diplomacy had failed.  This planned operation was called Nitro Zeus.   It should be noted from the Times article:

At its height, officials say, the planning for Nitro Zeus involved thousands of American military and intelligence personnel, spending tens of millions of dollars and placing electronic implants in Iranian computer networks to “prepare the battlefield,” in the parlance of the Pentagon.
The cyber weapons are already present in Iran.  The trigger was simply not pressed.

The cutbacks to the US military may cause gaps in the cyber warfare sections.

How will the Navy fight in a cyber war? (part 2)   Part of the answer might be to unplug ships from each other in the event of a cyber attack.  It has released more cyber security guidelines.

The US military service chiefs are rejecting the idea of creating a fifth branch of the military to just handle cyberwarfare.  I could have sworn it already exists and is called the NSA.

Britain is putting an increased emphasis on cyberwarfare.

Australia is, too, adding significant capabilities (paywall), including hiring 1700 people just for its cyberwarfare group.


The Russian cyber espionage group, Pawn Storm, has released a vicious linux centric trojan called Fysbis, one that eats android phones, too.  Yet it will not infect phones and computers is Russia.

The US DHS has determined the power outage in Ukraine in December was definitely a cyber attack, but declined to name the source.  Others have stated it was the Russian group named 'Sandworm.'

Hackers are already making millions from their actions.

The Sony hackers were at it for years prior.

Another set of hackers held a hospital for ransom.  The hospital paid out $17,000 to get their computers back.

In a frightening test, a hospital was hacked.  The drug dispensaries, patient monitoring and elsewhere were found to be hackable.

A major security flaw was found in DNS, the giant 'yellow pages' of the internet, that could allow virtually the entire Internet to be infected.

A simple keylogger malware was released into the wild and, in an amusing twist, ended up infecting the original coders' computers 16 times.   This is the danger of cyberweapons.  They can inadvertently turn against you.

Those Between:

The German police are allowed to use a trojan malware.

CMU developed software to attack TOR for the DOD, but the FBI now ants the software.

The Future is NOW: Training Pilots Through the use of Electroneural Stimulation

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Modulates Neuronal Activity and Learning in Pilot Training


Choe et al


Skill acquisition requires distributed learning both within (online) and across (offline) days to consolidate experiences into newly learned abilities. In particular, piloting an aircraft requires skills developed from extensive training and practice. Here, we tested the hypothesis that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can modulate neuronal function to improve skill learning and performance during flight simulator training of aircraft landing procedures. Thirty-two right-handed participants consented to participate in four consecutive daily sessions of flight simulation training and received sham or anodal high-definition-tDCS to the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) or left motor cortex (M1) in a randomized, double-blind experiment. Continuous electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) were collected during flight simulation, n-back working memory, and resting-state assessments. tDCS of the right DLPFC increased midline-frontal theta-band activity in flight and n-back working memory training, confirming tDCS-related modulation of brain processes involved in executive function. This modulation corresponded to a significantly different online and offline learning rates for working memory accuracy and decreased inter-subject behavioral variability in flight and n-back tasks in the DLPFC stimulation group. Additionally, tDCS of left M1 increased parietal alpha power during flight tasks and tDCS to the right DLPFC increased midline frontal theta-band power during n-back and flight tasks. These results demonstrate a modulation of group variance in skill acquisition through an increasing in learned skill consistency in cognitive and real-world tasks with tDCS. Further, tDCS performance improvements corresponded to changes in electrophysiological and blood-oxygenation activity of the DLPFC and motor cortices, providing a stronger link between modulated neuronal function and behavior.

pop sci write up.

This is my reaction.