Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wow Moment: Carbon Older than the Sun

Organic globules found in a meteorite that slammed into Canada's Tagish Lake may be older than our sun, a new study says.

The ancient materials could offer a glimpse into the solar system's planet-building past and may even provide clues to how life on Earth first arose.

"We don't really look at this research as telling us something about [the meteorite itself] as much as telling us something about the origins of the solar system," said Scott Messenger of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Most of the meteorite's material is about the same age as our solar system—about 4.5 billion years—and was likely formed at the same time (tour a virtual solar system).

But the microscopic organic globules that make up about one-tenth of one percent of the object appear to be far older.

In a study appearing in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, Messenger and colleagues report that isotopic anomalies in the globules suggest that they formed in very cold conditions—near absolute zero.

"What's really striking about this is that these globules clearly could not possibly have formed where [the meteorite] itself formed," Messenger said.

"Under those extreme conditions the air that you'd breathe would be solid ice. You would never find those conditions in the asteroid belt or anywhere close to the sun."

Wow. Just wow.

More original content tomorrow, folks, promise.

The Indian Monsoons are worse

India's monsoon rains have intensified over the last half-century as average temperatures have risen, and more severe weather could be in store if global warming continues, scientists reported on Thursday.

Heavy rains come more frequently and are more severe now than they were in 1951, the researchers wrote in the journal Science.

At the same time, moderate rains -- the kind that are more easily absorbed -- decreased, leaving the mean rainfall record about the same as it was five decades ago.

"The extreme events are so damaging because they pour in a large amount of rainfall over a small area in a very short time, leading to flash floods and landslides," B.N. Goswami of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology wrote in answer to e-mailed questions.

"On the other hand weak and moderate events do not cause such damage and help recharge the ground water," Goswami wrote.

If this trend continues, the number of extreme rain events could reach 100 per year, more than double the 45 or so such events common in the 1950s in central India, he wrote.

And the NorAm east coast is supposed to get monsoonal as well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another Single Impact Link

Read there too.

Aussie Amber Fossils

Huge chunks of amber containing the remnants of ancient rainforests have been found along beaches in Far North Queensland, the first amber fossils to be found in Australia.

The amber pieces, some as big as a football, contain flies, beetles, spiders, flowers, fungi, moss, fern spores and pollen as well as bubbles of gas and water from the time, the researchers say.

The fossils are at least 4 million years old, they say, possibly much older.

T Day Pictures!

Crunchiness in the Devonian

HA! A Single Impact!

The dinosaurs, along with the majority of all other animal species on Earth, went extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Some scientists have said that the impact of a large meteorite in the Yucatan Peninsula, in what is today Mexico, caused the mass extinction, while others argue that there must have been additional meteorite impacts or other stresses around the same time. A new study provides compelling evidence that "one and only one impact" caused the mass extinction, according to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher.

"The samples we found strongly support the single impact hypothesis," said Ken MacLeod, associate professor of geological sciences at MU and lead investigator of the study. "Our samples come from very complete, expanded sections without deposits related to large, direct effects of the impact - for example, landslides - that can shuffle the record, so we can resolve the sequence of events well. What we see is a unique layer composed of impact-related material precisely at the level of the disappearance of many species of marine plankton that were contemporaries of the youngest dinosaurs. We do not find any sedimentological or geochemical evidence for additional impacts above or below this level, as proposed in multiple impact scenarios."

MacLeod and his co-investigators studied sediment recovered from the Demerara Rise in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of South America, about 4,500 km (approximately 2,800 miles) from the impact site on the Yucatan Peninsula. Sites closer to and farther from the impact site have been studied, but few intermediary sites such as this have been explored. Interpretation of samples from locations close to the crater are complicated by factors such as waves, earthquakes and landslides that likely followed the impact and would have reworked the sediment. Samples from farther away received little impact debris and often don't demonstrably contain a complete record of the mass extinction interval. The Demerara Rise samples, thus, provide an unusually clear picture of the events at the time of the mass extinction.

"With our samples, there just aren't many complications to confuse interpretation. You could say that you're looking at textbook quality samples, and the textbook could be used for an introductory class," MacLeod said. "It's remarkable the degree to which our samples follow predictions given a mass extinction caused by a single impact. Sedimentological and paleontological complexities are minor, the right aged-material is present, and there is no support for multiple impacts or other stresses leading up to or following the deposition of material from the impact."

Talk about contrasting with Gerta Keller. I saw this yesterday, before NW put it up, but didn't have time to post from home. Ah well, the NW link is a very well written one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lukashenka Seeks Help with Russia

After complaining to the Ukrainian journalists about the expected price increase and about what he sees as Moscow's intention to put Belarusian economic entities in a disadvantageous position compared to Russian businesses, Lukashenka admitted that he would welcome the idea of forming a union state with Ukraine.

He went so far as to suggest that, because of the "comparable" sizes of the two states, such a union might even be more feasible than one with Russia.

According to the Belarusian president, such a political formation could face a bright future.

"Pray God it happens some time. Believe me, everybody would have to take this [Belarusian-Ukrainian] state into consideration," Lukashenka said. "We would bargain a great deal from the world for our peoples."

Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that, in making such comments, Lukashenka is beginning to promote an idea first proposed by the Belarusian opposition 15 years ago. At that time, Vyachorka noted, the opposition sought to seek closer ties and, if possible, a union with Ukraine and the Baltic states in order to counter Russia's political and economic clout.

According to Vyachorka, such a move on the part of Lukashenka testifies to the desperation of the Belarusian president in the face of Russia's economic pressure.

"I think that today Mr. Lukashenka has no response to this challenge, to this deadlock into which he himself has brought our country," he said.

Now he sees what an asp he's been sleeping with. "Too bad" he's a tyrant and completely unsavory for everyone to try to deal with. After all, he's a snake too. Ukraine unite with Belarus? Why? to piss off the Russians? To drag down their economy even more? *snickers* Handled wrong though he might end up in bed wth someone that the West just can't stand. Someone even 'worse' than him. Or more threatening. If the Russians don't eat him first.

Cray and IBM in the HPCS Program

For those of you that actually care about the industry that I work in High Performance Computing (ie HPC or supercomputing), somthing big happened this last week. DAPRA awarded their HPCS Phase III contracts. There had been a lot of competition for these contracts. When Phase II had its down select, SGI lost out. This time around, Sun lost out. The results were what you would expect if you were an industry insider: IBM and Cray won. Here's an okay overview.

So what do they have to do? By 2010 both teams need to build and demonstrate a running petaflop computer: note DAPRA is interested in sustained, real world performance, so all you Beowulf ranters can please just go home now, thanx. Cray has $250 million with work with. IBM has $225 million to work with. Please note the numbers there. Please go read about each of the teams approaches: IBM's Power7 and Cray's Cascade. IBM's taking the conservative approach. Cray isn't. Or not as conservative.

In either case, these are not COTS machines! But wait, isn't IBM using a Power processor? Yup, but there's a lot more to this than a processor. For taht matter, there may be some desktop systems that will use the Power7, but I suspect that it won't be many. There are some power workstations out there now, but they're pretty darn pricey for what you get. To me, based on the price tag, based on the current rumor mill in the HPC world, based on the price tag, this doesn't bode well for the future of computing. At least on the small scale end.

During the 1990s we saw COTS clusters pop up everywhere: the so-called attack of the killer micros. Universities could afford them. They provided a very cheap and easily maintained way of bringing very fast assets to researchers on a limited budget. They were scaled up to really big machines: the monsters down stairs are little more than suped up clusters. They're here to stay. They're about to pass into history for the high end machines though.

Consumer parts are simply not keeping up with the demand for HPC platforms. That's because the demand for faster PC processors and bigger memory is but a shadow of what it was during the 1990s. AMD and Intel cannot keep cranking out the improvements in processing power that they did in that time frame (percentage wise). To me, based on what I am seeing, it looks like we've hit a bad case of diminishing returns for the end user and the economics are simply unfavorable for it to grow much more.

Combined with the gobsmacking costs of the highest end HPC platforms that they are now developing - $250 million for a petascale machine? - or recently developed - $800 million +/- for the Earth Simulator? - means that the popular interpretation of Moore's Law is at an end. Or so close that we're almost on the verge. As for comments about quantum computing taking ove rand charging off? Well, they've been talking about 'purely' photonic computers since I was a teenager and working on the bits and pieces even then. The parallels seem very apparent to me.

Let's face it: the Rapture of the Geeks just isn't coming.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pondering Climate Change

Something to keep in mind when reading about climate change is that this will probably not be the end of the world. In fact, we are actually at one of the colder times of our planet's history. This means that if we do get a huge shift in average wrold temperature, even as much as the worst case scenario seems to predict right now, we will only be returning to the median temperature!

That's right! We're not going to be hitting the temperatures of the Eocene or most fo the Mesozoic and nevermind the fact that we still need to go up another 5 - 7 C average for the Permian when we had a planet bake. IE we're not even close to having the world end. We are close to seeing it change for a long, long time.

We're going survive this. The world will just change. Like it always does. It just won't be like anything before. It seems that our climate is always unique and never repeats a performance. It won't be the Eocene. it won't be the Oligocene either. It will be something different.


My family and I went down to North Fork, CA: two of aunts have 45 acres there. The last time I saw any of them was a little over two years and some of them it was over a decade ago. None of them had met my daughter before and some had met my wife.

My daughter got to play with dogs for the first time and developed a friendship with one golden lab: she even sat there trying to explain things to the girl puppy. It was incredibly cute. We overate and went up to Yosemite. We were there from Wednesday through Saturday. We had a blast.

Picts will be up (PROMISE!) on Wednesday from this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Neandertals Grew Like Us

Hot on the heels of studies that last week argued Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) genetically diverged as much as 500,000 years ago, a new paper says the children of both hominid branches grew at a strongly similar pace.

University College London researcher Christopher Dean and colleagues used high-resolution imaging techniques to probe the insides of two Neanderthal molars, found at La Chaise-de-Vouthon in western France and dated to around 130,000 years ago.

They looked for telltale ridges and patterns deemed to indicate a child's growth from birth and to the length of childhood.

H. sapiens and Neanderthal teeth point to similar timelines for reaching adulthood, says the study, which appears on Thursday in Nature, the weekly British science journal.

"Our prediction for first permanent molar eruption in this Neanderthal (is) of 6.8 years... This all points to a dental development schedule that was most like that in modern humans," says Dean.

"At 130,000 years we find no evidence of foreshortened periods of growth or of unusual stress in these Neanderthals that would set them apart from modern humans."

The dental debate came to the crunch in April 2004, when Spanish palaeontologists said Neanderthals became adults by the age of 15, compared to 18-20 years for H. sapiens, which thus showed Neanderthals to be "a distinct species" from humans.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Global Warming Already Changing Ecologies

Animal and plant species have begun dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming, a review of hundreds of research studies contends.

These fast-moving adaptations come as a surprise even to biologists and ecologists because they are occurring so rapidly.

At least 70 species of frogs, mostly mountain-dwellers that had nowhere to go to escape the creeping heat, have gone extinct because of climate change, the analysis says. It also reports that between 100 and 200 other cold-dependent animal species, such as penguins and polar bears are in deep trouble.

"We are finally seeing species going extinct," said University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, author of the study. "Now we've got the evidence. It's here. It's real. This is not just biologists' intuition. It's what's happening."

Her review of 866 scientific studies is summed up in the journal Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

Parmesan reports seeing trends of animal populations moving northward if they can, of species adapting slightly because of climate change, of plants blooming earlier, and of an increase in pests and parasites.

Parmesan and others have been predicting such changes for years, but even she was surprised to find evidence that it's already happening; she figured it would be another decade away.

Just five years ago biologists, though not complacent, figured the harmful biological effects of global warming were much farther down the road, said Douglas Futuyma, professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Kernel Panics

This is one of those stories that if you are a parent, you will think is funny. If you are not, you will probably be disgusted. Only read on if you have a sense of humor and are not terribly squeemish.

On Saturday, after I woke up late from fighting the fires on seaborg (I got home about 3 AM), I worked on helping my wife with her paper. Then I went off to take a shower. While I was in the shower, my wife made our daughter popcorn.

Y'see my daughter loves popcorn. More than candy. More than ice cream. More than chocolate (little heathen). If she sees the box of popcorn, she goes a bit nuts begging and whining and screaming to get it. We don't give in when she does that, but tell her 'no' and distract her with something else. We normally give her popcorn when she's been a good girl only. Anyways, my wife made her popcorn and then made a small mistake. It's never been a problem before. It was this time!

She left the bag from the microwave - after making sure that it was cool enough - with our daughter and came to chat with me as I got out of the shower. I was mostly dressed when Avrora came over and pointed at her nose saying that something was wrong. It was very, very apparent very quick. There was a lot of slimy, nasty mucus dripping from one nostril and it looked bloated. I bent over to clean her nose and look closer when I saw there was a popcorn kernel in there! Not just one, but at least two or more!

I got angry, but should not have. I was able to use my fingers to get two of them out, but there were more and she was screaming (it hurt, getting them out did). We decided to go straight to the hospital. Lyuda couldn't get any more out either and we didn't know how big of a problem we were facing. We raced off in Lyuda's car while I was driving. The hospital is about 7 miles away. Lyuda asked if she could try sucking the kernels out. I tld her to go for it, but I wasn't sure. We pulled over about 1/3 of the way there and Lyuda climbed in the back seat. As we zipped along, Lyuda latched herself onto Avrora's nose and began to suck. Avrora was definitely not happy and vocally let us know. My daughter has an incredible set of lungs and is probably going to be an oustanding swimmer! At any rate, Lyuda successfully extracted another two kernels from the same nostril! and a WHOLE LOTTA SNOT. A few mouthfuls, or pretty close.

If you know my wife, this is something very difficult for her to have done. I am very proud of her for her conduct during the whole affair. She didn't get upset, or at least not as much as I did. She even did stuff that would have normally gagged her and made her worship the porcelain gods without even a hint of squeamishness.

Well, we made it to the hopsital and trundled into the emergency room. We ended up waiting forever and a day. Then we saw the Dr. He was nice and asked what we'd done. My wife asked if they would have given us any good addvice just by calling into the advice nurses that are more like tech support line for medical issues. He said no that they would have told us to come in. he checked one nostril and her ears and then the suspect nostril. He was impressed that she'd gotten so much in there (her nose isn't THAT big). He looked up...and saw yet ANOTHER kernel in there. He asked what we'd done so far: fingers & sucking on the nose. He then said, "Daddy, it's time for the next step."

My wife held Avrora. The doctor held her head and closed the one nostril that didn't have the kernel in it. I positioned myself and then blew in a strong, quick puff into her mouth. The kernel didn't come out, but lots of mucus did. All over the side of my face. My daughter looked horrified. So, we did it again. And then the kernel riccocheted off the floor. You could even hear it. The doctor did a quick double check and no further kernels and we went to go grocery shopping and then home.

The next morning we were getting ourselves together for the day. Breakfast was made and we were starting the showering, etc...when my daughter walked over with a popcorn kernel in her hand. We immediately began scouring the apartment for any more that might have been missed. We found a couple, but not that many. We checked her nose and nada there.

We were putting her down for a nap when she stood up in her crib and complained at my wife a bit. My wife started to sooth her and clean her nose just a bit...and like a bad epilogue in a bad movie hinting that the good guys really hadn't won and a sequel was forth coming...out fell a popcorn kernel. We went through motions again - fingers, sucking, and blowing - and didn't find a thing.

I dread the future of popcorn at home now. I am also SO glad that our family name is not Nicoll. This would have been even more overly dramatic then.

Kosovo or no, We're going Indepedent

Sergei Bagapsh, Eduard Kokoiti, and Igor Smirnov, Russian-installed leaders respectively of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, conferred with Russian government officials in Moscow on November 16-18, held a joint news conference, and were featured extensively on Russian state television channels.

All three made it clear that by seeking the “independence” of their territories they meant their ultimate affiliation to the Russian Federation.

In a sign of growing confidence, the trio advertised themselves as “proud to be citizens of Russia.” They also made unusually open statements of loyalty to Russia partly based on Soviet nostalgia: “Moscow remains our capital just as it was in Soviet times. For us, this is our capital whether one likes this fact or not,” Bagapsh declared


The trio declared in unison that they did not need a Kosovo precedent or model to justify their secession. Indeed they took pains to distance themselves from the Kosovo case, arguing that their own cases had greater validity. Smirnov dismissed the Kosovo case as “academic talk….Recognition or non-recognition of Kosovo bears no relation to our state.” Bagapsh would “not in the least compare our movement toward independence with the case of Kosovo,” particularly since the [Moscow-encouraged] Serbian referendum recently decided for Serbia’s territorial integrity. Kokoiti is “not counting on [a precedent in] Kosovo, we have stronger legal and political grounds for recognition than Kosovo does”.

Their political preconditions and accompanying propaganda line, as well as their insouciance about Kosovo, indicate that the secessionist leaderships now behave more confidently than at any time in the past. By the same token they indicate that Moscow has decided to impose a deep freeze on the three sets of negotiations until further notice.

We All Live in A Yellow Lead Balloon! A Yellow Lead Balloon!

Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars. He believes a draft would bolster U.S. troop levels that are currently insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft, and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation on conscription in the past, said he will propose a measure early next year.

In 2003, he proposed a draft covering people age 18 to 26. This year, he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42. It went nowhere in the Republican-led Congress.

And with luck it will go nowhere in a Democractic led Congress. The Draft is useful in situations where it's a kncok-down drag-out fight. The sitation we find ourselves in has nada to do with that. We're not in a WW2 or WW1 situation at all. I know I have a couple NYers reading this blog. What's up with Rangel's thought process?!

AFRL Tests Mars Flyer Concept

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) researchers continue to play a critical role in the future of Mars exploration. Scientists from AFRL’s Air Vehicles Aerospace Vehicle Integration and Demonstration Branch, NASA Ames Research Center, and Naval Research Laboratory met from September 18-20 to perform testing of a Mars Flyer model in AFRL’s vertical wind tunnel.

The Mars Flyer is an unmanned air vehicle concept that would fly over the surface of Mars, collecting data and transmitting vital information about the Mars surface and atmosphere back to researchers on Earth. It would collect data such as evidence of water or ice just below the planet’s surface, evidence of methane related processes in the atmosphere, and the structure and turbulent behavior of the atmosphere itself. Airplanes over Mars can be just as useful, in many ways, as airplanes over the Earth.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

ah frack

I am here at work because I am on rotation and seaborg just felt totally neglected this week.


Friday, November 17, 2006

The Last Anapsids

This is an ongoing post of critters that are part of my Greenland engineered ecology. I only have time for a quickie this week, sorry.

This is one of the last anapsids that I decided to engineer. It's a bit of a strange one compared to the others that I have come up with. It's a small one and an herbivore. While endothermic, it lives underground and isn't very large. It's about 10 cm long. This is a gopher analog and borrows all over the place. It has a streamlined hardshell and modified forelimbs and claws for better digging.

An insectivorous version would be cool too. hrm. Anapsid moles and gophers. Perhaps another very small, but quick one that fills the role of shrews. very cool. We'll give Lacertilia a run for their money on and under the ground at least.

With all the shelled critters running around in the small scale, we're likely to get something big and able to crunch hardshelled morsels. Not another anapsid, though. And that's a post for another time.

Reading Update

Unfortunately, it looks like the Permian post is delayed again. No later than Wednesday, that's for sure. I have a coworker that I am helping with their GPFS 3.1 testbed that's taking a little longer than planned. These things happen and we can't always anticipate them. Wednesday ought to be pretty quite though, so I should be able to get to it then.

I have been reading two books recently. One at home. One while I worked out and had quiet times at work or in places that lugging the first book around wouldn't be so advantageous. The first book, the great tome, was Architectural Working Drawings and the second was Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages. I am pleased with both of them.

Architectural Working Drawings was excellent. If you want a good guide on how to do working drawings, this is really it. Caution, you do need to have had at least a little bit of a drafting background to read this one. This isn't about the history of drafting. This isn't about the history of drafting, but a step by step, sheet by sheet instruction on how to do this. It isn't a textbook with quizes at the end of each chapter either (Hooray!).

Frozen Earth is a good book. I can't say that it's a great book. The problem is that like so many science books that are published these days, far too much of it is spent on writing about the history of the theory of ice ages. While this was fine for me because I knew only a touch of it - none at all about Croll and some of the others - I was really hoping to read more about the ice age science than was encapsulated. I had a foul taste in my mouth after he talked about evolution and the ice ages: this is often a problem when experts step out of their area of expertise though. The major disppointment was when the topic of future ice ages was touched on. It was a VERY brief chapter at the end of the book. Very very disappointing.

Next up will be Foundation Design: Principles and Practices and In Search of Maya Sea Traders. I'll follow Traders with a book on Putin since I'll finish that before the book on Foundations.

What Kind of Accent Do I have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West


North Central

The Inland North

The South


The Northeast

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Bussard Video Talk

He talks fusion and what he's been up to recently. This is a very long video.

Turkic Commonwealth?

Leaders of Turkic nations are meeting today, November 17, in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort city of Antalya. This first summit of Turkish-speaking peoples in five years appears to reflect Ankara’s ongoing rethinking about its international identity. Increasingly frustrated with the mounting hurdles on the path of its European integration, Turkey seems to be turning its strategic gaze to the east – the Caspian Basin and Central Asia – which is home to the energy-rich Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union.


The urgent task, then, according to some Turkish strategists, is to explore the possibilities for regional integration and cooperation among the Eurasian countries. “The need for cooperation among us and other regional powers is obvious,” asserts Ali Kulebi, the head of Turkey’s National Security Strategies Research Center, in a recent policy paper.

But other analysts remain skeptical about Ankara’s eventual success with Eurasian integration, including its efforts at building a bloc based on a kinship with Central Asia’s Turkic peoples. There are two main reasons for such skepticism. First, the Central Asian states will likely be wary of Ankara’s intention to play the role of “big brother” in the prospective commonwealth. Second, these countries have not been terribly successful so far in resolving some crucial regional problems – such as the delimitation of the Caspian Sea or competition over water resources.

That's an interesting future to ponder. The Turks give over on trying to join Europe and instead seek to create a Turkic Commonwealth. It would be energy rich which in the medium and short terms would be good. There is a wealth of other extractive materials as well. From the US PoV it might be a good thing as a balance out of Russia and China with regards to the SCO and CSTO. And Iran. They really ought to put the capital in Istanbul then. ;)

We'll be Sitting This One Out too

With a concession to China, more than 180 nations at the U.N. climate conference appeared to reach preliminary agreement Friday on next steps toward negotiating deeper future cuts in global-warming emissions, Germany's environment minister said.

Future meetings under the deal would review the workings of the Kyoto Protocol by 2008 with an eye toward setting new emissions quotas after it expires in 2012.

But China was assured that process would not negotiate cutbacks by developing nations, said Germany's Sigmar Gabriel, who expressed some disappointment.


China, India and others have resisted efforts at the U.N. climate conference to begin early talks in which they and other poor but fast-developing nations might be pressured to accept mandatory cutbacks in emissions linked to global warming.

Remember folks, don't build anything less than 9m (30 ft) above sea level. ok?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Preview of the Carbon Tax

Al Gore's Speech is up above.

I've started helping my wife with the number crunching and writing (grammar correction and suggestions on organization). The number crunching is ... interesting. I'll give in to the temptation to post something about it and say that natural gas usage at home will take a huge hit, but for electricity generation it might be less of one. If you're in the coal industry and Gore runs for president (and gets it) or someone embraces his idea, I'd find some other industry to be in. May I suggest nuclear power?

Anyways, any further conclusions - and numbers - will have to wait until her paper is back and graded. The whole thing is going to be incredibly fascinating to think through.

Another Baxter _Evolution_ Snipe

In the end times of Baxter's life on Earth and the tale of the last humans and their symbiotic borometz tree, Baxter has an ocean that is uber salty and dead. He had said that ocean in the 400 plus million years from now was simply too salty for anything to live in it. That day may in fact come, but it will take a long, long time. Our friend Baxter must not have heard of the Death Valley Pupfish.

This little fish lives in water that is four times saltier than the ocean. The water is VERY hot. Approximately the same temperature as the air. The interesting thing about this pupfish is that it evolved from a freshwater pupfish as little as 10k years ago that lived in Lake Manly.

I think that in 500 million years from now, something as far as vertebrates will have adapted and live in the very salty oceans.

After all, if a little fish can make such an adaptation in 10k years...

Now don't get me started on his description of life on land...needing invisibility to survive by hunting. Sheesh. Too bad that the plains and praries of NorAm and Eurasia are so depopulated and barren, lifeless places even in the very dry Oligocene.

lol...uh huh

You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Kyoto was a failure

Most of Europe, which has criticized the United States over its stance on global warming, looks set to miss a set of goals to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, a study revealed on Tuesday.

The findings by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) will make embarrassing reading for European governments that have berated Washington for its refusal to ratify the United Nations pact.

Of 15 countries in Europe signed up to Kyoto, only Britain and Sweden were on target to meet their commitments on reducing harmful gas emissions by 2012, said the IPPR, Britain's leading progressive think tank.

In contrast, 10 nations -- including Ireland, Italy and Spain -- would fail to do so unless they took urgent action, it said.

From here.

Right now, they are trying to start to hammer out the next treaty on curbing carbon emissions. This is despite the fact that somewhere around half the nations that accepted/ratified the Kyoto treaty will not actually make the target that they set: Europe is a large part of that and so too is Canada. Let's set the next goal even though we didn't meet this one. hmm. Small problem there.

Even more so, Kyoto didn't include the US. Right now, the US accounts for 25% of the CO2 emissions that are generated by human civilization. The US objected to Kyoto because it didn't impose on the developing countries at all either. The US argued that it should if it going to impose on some, it should on all. We were right. For the wrong reasons.

It was an unfair advantage issue that the US brought up. The fact of the matter is that China will shortly surpass the US in the amount of CO2 emissions: reason being the trade imbalance. Kyoto would not have imposed upon China whatsoever. Based on how things are going with the new negotiations, it looks like the developing nations - which includes China - are arguing that they shouldn't be held to the same standards as the developed nations. Still. India is on the rise too as far as carbon emissions and it too must be included.

Kyoto didn't negate the coming climate change. It probably didn't even mitigate it. The nations that are trumpeting it should not be holding themselves up as exemplars on climate change when they are, in fact, not. Climate change is coming. I do not deny that. I really think that we need to tackle this problem. EVERYONE has to tackle the problem, not just the developed nations. There's only one world and one atmosphere. Whatever gets put into it from one nation effects all of it. Especially with regards to greenhouse gasses.

My wife is looking at doing the numbers for a paper for her business class about the impact of Al Gore's proposed carbon emission tax (instead of payroll taxes). I'll post my extended numbers and opinion after her paper is back and graded. I don't want her to be penalized because I find the proposal interesting. I am unsure if it will work...or not. It is interesting though.

NASA Studies Manned Asteroid Mission

NASA is appraising a human mission to a near-Earth asteroid—gauging the scientific merit of the endeavor while testing out spacecraft gear, as well as mastering techniques that could prove useful if a space rock ever took aim for our planet.

Space agency teams are looking into use of Constellation hardware for a human Near-Earth Object (NEO) mission—an effort underway at NASA’s Ames Research. Another study is delving into use of Constellation components to support an automated Mars sample return mission. That study is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


Astronauts, engineers and scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas have been looking into the capabilities of the Orion vehicle for a mission to a near-Earth asteroid.


“A human mission to a near Earth asteroid would be scientifically worthwhile,” said Chris McKay, deputy scientist in the Constellation science office at the NASA Johnson Space Center. “It could be part of an overall program of understanding these objects. Also, it would be useful, instrumentally, in terms of understanding the threat they pose to the Earth.”

This sounds great...if its really going to not hamper getting to Mars and back to the moon. If we can extend the human presence all over the solar system and get some experience with playing with asteroids, all the better! However, Mars is uber importante in my not so humble opinion and people in history are probably less likely to remember the first walk on an asteroid than the first walk on Mars. The US has already placed itself permamently in the history books by being the first to walk on the moon...let's extend that. It's VERY emabrassing that its going to have taken us 50 years to get from the moon to mars. Let's not make it worse with mission creep. However, if we can go visit the NEO asteroids too I'm all for it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Neandertals: A Contrary View

The veil of mystery surrounding our extinct hominid cousins, the Neanderthals, has been at least partially lifted to reveal surprising results. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) have sequenced genomic DNA from fossilized Neanderthal bones. Their results show that the genomes of modern humans and Neanderthals are at least 99.5-percent identical, but despite this genetic similarity, and that the two species cohabitated the same geographic region for thousands of years, there is no evidence of any significant crossbreeding between the two. Based on these early results, Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis last shared a common ancestor approximately 700,000 years ago.

Said Rubin, “While unable to definitively conclude that interbreeding between the two species of humans did not occur, analysis of the nuclear DNA from the Neanderthal suggests the low likelihood of it having occurred at any appreciable level.

This is running contrary to what John Hawks et al are saying.


Frackin Trent Lott! This is what the Republicans want for their leadership? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Starting Rotation


This sucks.

I am starting rotation - where I am responsible for all the systems here - for a week. Better now than next week though!!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Permian Friday

With luck, and an understanding cluster file system, I'll post something on the Permian Extinction on Friday. I am hoping that this will be about the ecology.

Terror Bird Skull Comparison

Nature's second attempt at the theropods...kewl!

Russia's Understanding of the EU

“The EU has become a multi-headed monster that many in Russia don’t comprehend -- and the number of heads keeps increasing,” Chizhov complained in another interview. “The EU’s acquisition of the newcomers from the East made things more difficult, because it brought in countries with grievances of the past Soviet era -- a hangover from the Cold War and one that extends as far back as the 19th century,” he said. “We supported the accession of these countries to the European Union and we hoped the ‘big brothers’ inside the EU would provide them with a certain calming -- even educational -- influence,” Chizhov said. “So far this has not produced the changes we were hoping for.”

What Kind of Intelligence Am I?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

You are great at finding patterns and relationships between things. Always curious about how things work, you love to set up experiments. You need for the world to make sense - and are good at making sense of it. You have a head for numbers and math ... and you can solve almost any logic puzzle.

You would make a great scientist, engineer, computer programmer, researcher, accountant, or mathematician.

Gazprom Marching on Ukraine

Gazprom is moving rapidly to take over Ukraine’s gas transport system through its monopolist offshoots in Ukraine: RosUkrEnergo and UkrGazEnergo. The immediate target is Ukraine’s internal gas distribution network, although the transit system is being targeted as well.
Next step, what's being done to Georgia WRT to natural gas. All because the EU won't back Ukraine against Russia. *sighs*

Come Over to the Darkside, Randy!

Randy McDonald has embarked on mentally weighing the question of whether or not other nations, in their attempts to persuade the US to change its policies, might not be better served to join the US and use their votes to participate in the elections and influence the policy then. After all, the elections are often close run things, especially for the office of president these days, and the balance of power would be relatively easy to shift. He started pondering this after reading the Letter from America.

In some ways, this isn't that different than what Claudia Muir is saying about considering changing her citizenship in order to help influence the policy. Rather than merely complaining, she is talking about doing. I have to admire her for this. I wouldn't consider changing my citizenship. However, her beliefs are getting to be so strong on certain matters that she is considering the leap. I hope she makes the right decision for her.

It's not a secret that I am an expansionist. If I had my druthers, I'd be annexing right and left. There are a few countries that I would like to add to the American fold more than others and there are definitely priorities. The top two that I would want to annex, actually, would be Canada and Mexico. These two alone would resolve the issues with the gobsmacknormous borders we have with them: the remaining borders with Guatemala and Belize are far, far less. Just imagine...the border patrol restricted to southern now-Mexico. *Dreams* (sorry, don't care much for them...a few bad experiences now and again living in the NM/M border region).

I haven't wrapped my head around the idea of what the voting would look like with Mexico included in the States, but Canada is an easier problem. So let's take a look at Randy's and in a tangential way Claudia's idea. We need a little more solid situation though to drive the differences and influences home. I think it would be an excellent example if we had included Canada in the 2000 Presidential Election. How would the results been influenced? First we need to look at what the government representation would look like. How much influence would the provinces now states have?

State: Population:

California 36,132,147
Texas 22,859,968
New York 19,254,630
Florida 17,789,864
Illinios 12,763,371
Ontario 12,541,400
Pennsylvania 12,429,616
Ohio 11,464,042
Michigan 10,120,860
Georgia 9,072,576
New Jersey 8,717,925
North Carolina 8,683,242
Quebec 7,598,100
Virginia 7,567,465
Massachusetts 6,398,743
Washington 6,287,759
Indiana 6,271,973
Tennessee 5,962,959
Arizona 5,939,292
Missouri 5,800,310
Maryland 5,600,388
Wisconsin 5,536,201
Minnesota 5,132,799
Colorado 4,665,177
Alabama 4,557,808
Lousiana 4,523,628
South Carolina 4,255,083
British Columbia 4,254,500
Kentucky 4,173,405
Puerto Rico 3,916,632
Oregon 3,641,056
Oklahoma 3,547,884
Connecticut 3,510,297
Alberta 3,256,800
Iowa 2,966,334
Mississippi 2,921,088
Arkansas 2,779,154
Kansas 2,744,687
Utah 2,469,585
Nevada 2,414,807
New Mexico 1,928,384
West Virginia 1,816,856
Nebraska 1,758,787
Idaho 1,429,096
Maine 1,321,505
New Hampshire 1,309,940
Hawaii 1,275,194
Manitoba 1,177,600
Rhode Island 1,076,189
Saskatchewan 994,100
Nova Scotia 937,900
Montana 935,670
Delaware 843,524
South Dakota 775,933
New Brunswick 752,000
Alaska 663,661
North Dakota 636,677
Vermont 623,050
Newfoundland and Labrador 516,000
Wyoming 509,294
Prince Edward Island 138,100
Northwest Territories 43,000
Yukon 31,000
Nunavut 30,000
[note, pop fig more current than Y2K]

So, Ontario has the pull power of Illinois or Pennsylvania, so call it about 22 electoral votes for Gore. Quebec has the weight of about Virginia, so that's another 13 votes for Gore. British Columbia has the strength of South Carolina, so that puts another 8 votes to Gore. Alberta comes in at around the same class as Connecticut, and at one time James Nicoll convincingly argued that Alberta might be a 'red state', so let's toss those votes to Bush: 8 votes. Manitoba has the same throw weight, approximately, as Hawaii....but not as pretty. The question is then which way would they swing? Would it be for Gore or Bush? James argued that they'd be a traitorous red state. I think they'd be a purple/swing state. I'll give James a benefit of a doubt and call it red: 4 votes for Bush. Saskatchewan would have 4 votes and it too would probably be a purple state, so defering to James, I'll call it 4 votes for Bush. Nova Scotia would also come in with about 4 votes and I'm going to override to say that the Maritimes are pro-Gore in this case: then 3 votes from New Brunswick; 3 votes from Newfoundland and Labrador; and 1 vote from Prince Edward Island. The native tribes seem to be a bit more friendly to the Democrats, but I can't really say for sure, but we'd end up with the Northwest Territories (1), Yukon (1), and Nunavut (1) all going to Gore.

So what's the new total?

It would be 323 Gore and 287 for Bush. Even if we peeled off the Maritimes and polar states to paint them red, it would then be 309 (G) to 301 (B). With 306 being the victory dance number, I'd have to say that Gore would have been president. If the Canucks had been Americans. And voted. That appears to give the appearance of some nontrivial influence on the elections...and course of history.

So come'on, Randy! Join the Darkside. I know that result would have been more to your liking.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Greenland Terraforming Tour de force Ecology: The Anapsids

The whole Greenland transplant ecology is something of a rebuild or reboot of the past ecologies. I have given the archosaurs a huge leg up. They hold a lot of the top level, megafauna niches. True, they are not the old archosaurs at all. They are very derived even from birds. While retaining bipedalism and feathers, they have been gifted with the dinosauromorphic tail, had their wings transformed either into arms with hands or removed altogether, their sternum bones flattened, and often their feet have been extensively modified. These critters sound positively Mesozoic. It's intentional. Now let's borrow from yet another past ecology.

The anapsids are something of the poor girl that's always the bride's maid and never the bride. Their greatest period was during the Permian and Triassic. True, while turtles and tortoises have been important since, the anapsid role as major player in the megafauna has been stymied since save on islands. I think we ought to give them another chance.

There are some nontrivial changes to the anapsid body plan. We're going to pull the legs in underneath more like the mammals or archosaurs. Why? That's the only way to make them more speedy and to support themselves at larger sizes. That necessitates some changes to their shell lay out as well. We'll make it flair over the edges so they can still 'turtle'. We need to make the shells a little more high hunched. Why? We are giving them a free upgrade to the stomach here much in line with cows. They'll need it. Finally, we'll give them an endothermic upgrade as well.

That said, we have a total of seven different species. They herald from two different genetic sources: the Galápagos tortoise and the Aldabra Giant Tortoise.

The first species is a specialist in bamboo. They normally snap a bamboo plant at the base and munch on its stem and leaves. They help prevent the overspreading of bamboo around Greenland. They are approximately the same size as their progenitors (the Galapagos Tortoise), but stand taller by a little more than a half meter.

The second species is a browser than lives in the redwood forests. Slightly larger than the bamboo eater, it measures 1.5 meters long and stands a quarter meter taller than the bamboo muncher. It clears and 'maintains' a lot of the animal paths through the forest, preventing the thorny berry bushes and ferns from overgrowing the forest.

The third species is a forest browser as well. Larger still at a 2m body length, it actually has a very long neck, another 2m, that browses the lower trees. Mostly harmless, it actually has a hissy cry that scares people quite easily. Like the previous three, this is a social animal, but only moderately so, moving in herds of only 12 or so.

The fourth species is larger than the others by a significant amount. Being about 4.5 meters long sans length length, and towering at 2m tall, it's a grazer on the grasslands of Greenland. It herds much more than its relatives and can be seen in groups of up to 300 easily. It's not that great a parent though and after incubation, while the babies herd, they are often preyed upon by the novarchosaurians and others.

The fifth species is actually semiaquatic and acts a bit as the Greenland Hippo. It is actually quite territorial unlike the others and large, but not as large as the grazer being only 3m long sans neck. The shell pushing matches are quite impressive between males attempting to defend their space.

The sixth species I am actually going to steal outright: the Toraton, but scaled down some. We'll make them move in mated pairs and much in the redwood forest. They compete with the ubersized sauropod-like geese.

hrm. I want one more, but I am out of time. Suggestions?

ESA Delays ExoMars

The European Space Agency (Esa) has pushed back the launch of its rover mission to Mars from 2011 to 2013.

The decision will not significantly delay the mission's arrival at Mars.

But it does reflect a growing will to push for an upgrade to the ExoMars project which could raise its cost from roughly 500m euros to 800m euros.

It would involve launching the rover on an Ariane 5 rocket instead of a Russian Soyuz, releasing enough mass to send an orbiting spacecraft along for the ride.

As the mission now stands, ExoMars would launch on a Soyuz-Fregat vehicle from Baikonur Cosmodrome, but the Soyuz is capable only of launching the rover and a carrier module to get it to Mars.

The more powerful Ariane 5, which launches from Kourou in French Guiana, could carry a rover and an orbiter to communicate and relay data with Earth.

There are some juicy bits in the article.

1) They are doing this to be able to put an orbiter with the rover.

2) They are doing this to avoid sitting in a heliocentric orbit for two years.

3) They are doing this to not rely on the Mars Recon orbiter (a US probe with com capabilities).

4) They are moving the rocket used from a Russian one to a European/French one.

Y'know. I think I smell some politics here. Interesting politics at that.

Martians Shot Down MGS?

Engineers are striving to restore full communications with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor on the 10th anniversary of the spacecraft's Nov. 7, 1996, launch.

The orbiter is the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently active at the red planet. Its original mission was to examine Mars for a full Martian year, roughly two Earth years. Once that period elapsed, considering the string of discoveries, NASA extended the mission repeatedly, most recently on Oct. 1 of this year.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Paranthropus Ate Well

An early human relative from 1.8 million years ago dined on the prehistoric equivalent of a smorgasbord -- fruit, nuts, roots, leaves and perhaps meat, according to a study that casts doubt on a key theory about its demise.

The four-foot-tall (1.2 metres), 100-pound (45-kg) bipedal hominid Paranthropus robustus lived in what is now South Africa alongside direct ancestors of modern humans, as well as hyenas, saber-toothed cats, elephants, baboons, antelopes and others.

A prevailing notion among scientists has been that Paranthropus was driven into extinction as Africa's climate became drier because it had a very limited diet, while our direct ancestors thrived on a diverse menu.

But scientists, writing on Thursday in the journal Science, used a sophisticated technique to analyse four teeth from the Swartkrans cave site in South Africa, and showed Paranthropus had a much more varied diet than previously thought.


"This whole idea that Paranthropus ultimately went extinct because it was so specialized that it couldn't cope with environmental change during the Pleistocene is probably dramatically over-simplified at best and very possibly just outright incorrect," Sponheimer said.

Paranthropus, with big thick teeth, a strong, heavy jaw and strong chewing muscles, previously was thought to have specialized in eating low-quality vegetation requiring lots of chewing.

University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling, a study coauthor, said the researchers would like to do similar studies on other species in humankind's family tree, and planned to approach museums about access to other ancient teeth.

So what did happen to them? We we kill them off? or did we get some nookie there too?

A Couple More Novarchosaurians

I realized that I didn't have a niche coverd that was ideal for some genhanced novarchosaurians. This niche is a natural since several birds already fit it as is. In fact, our novarchosaurians have basal stock that would work just fine since they're already in the role (more or less) as it is. Both of them are going to get the arm upgrade and of course the dinosaurian tail. The idea is that we need some oppurtunistic scavengers. Two of them ought to be novarchosaurians.

Our little seed populations for our scavengers?

The American Crow and the California Gull.

These little guys running around filling the role of minitheropods or the scavenger kinds would be fascinating. Obviously they're targeted for different ecosystems. The marshy areas and sea shore would be the home of the Gull derivs and the Crow derivs would be for the forests and grasslands.

Just imagine: Crows. With. Hands.

Oceans Turning Acidic?

The world's oceans are becoming more acidic, which poses a threat to sea life and Earth's fragile food chain, a climate expert said Thursday.

Oceans have already absorbed a third of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming, leading to acidification that prevents vital sea life from forming properly.

"The oceans are rapidly changing," said professor Stefan Rahmstorf on the sidelines of a U.N. conference on climate change that has drawn delegates from more than 100 countries to Kenya. "Ocean acidification is a major threat to marine organisms."

Fish stocks and the world's coral reefs could also be hit while acidification risks "fundamentally altering" the food chain, he said.

In a study titled "The Future Oceans — Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour," Rahmstorf and eight other scientists warned that the world is witnessing, on a global scale, problems similar to the acid rain phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980s.

hm. A Green Peace lab was involved with this so I have an autoskepticism bit set. I'd like to see some independent verfication. I am willing to accept this, but I have issues with that org is all. It might be doing interesting things (if true) to the carbon isotope ratios that future paleontologists and geochemists would look at for information about the 6th Mass Extinction.

FEL Now at 14kw+

The Free-Electron Laser (FEL), located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), produced a 14.2 kilowatt (kW) beam of laser light at an infrared wavelength of 1.61 microns on October 30.

"This wavelength is of interest to the Navy for transmission of light through the maritime atmosphere and for material science applications," said Fred Dylla, Jefferson Lab's Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director of the Free-Electron Laser Division.

Russian Space Agency cooperating with China

Russia plans to cooperate with China in robotic missions to the moon and Mars and other space projects, officials said Thursday.

"We have switched from cooperating on technological elements and devices to developing big scientific projects in space research," Yuri Nosenko, a deputy head of Russia's Federal Space Agency, told reporters in a televised hookup from Beijing, where he and other officials were attending a Russian national exhibition.

He said the space-related contracts Russian companies had signed with China were worth tens of millions of dollars.

Nosenko said that Russia had agreed to help China in its lunar research program and China would also take part in Russia's project of sending an unmanned probe to Mars' moon, Phobos, to take soil samples and deliver them back to Earth.

China will build a mini-satellite that would be carried by the Russian probe and released in the vicinity of Mars to conduct research, said Georgy Polishchuk, the head of the NPO Lavochkin company, which is working on the mission. It is set to launch in 2009.

Polishchuk said that China also had expressed interest in joining a later robotic mission expected to land on Mars.

Nosenko wouldn't elaborate on specific details of the moon and Mars projects or say how much they would cost.

The question is whether or not the Russian work is vaporware or not.

*cough* Kliper *cough*

*cough* T-95 *cough*

This is too easy to Caption

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Russian Energy Stings Good, Doesn't It?

The usual, anonymous “government official” who steps forward in such situations also observes, “This very much resembles an open blackmail using energy for the purpose of annexing Belarus. In Russia they reckon to substantially slow down the economic growth in Belarus and push the republic to enter into the Russian Federation….In practice, these are proposals to become a part of Russia. Unfortunately, Russia historically does not accept Belarus as a sovereign partner.” This official is prepared to retaliate by questioning the legality of Russian ownership of oil product pipelines in Belarus.

Surprise, surprise. The Russians are using their source of power on the Belarusians.

Was Croll Even More Right? Sorta?

New ice cores from the deep Antarctic show a direct and millennia-old relationship between climate changes in the northern and southern hemispheres, scientists said on Wednesday.

Comparison with cores from Greenland proves a strong north-south link and also highlights the role of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) -- the so-called Atlantic Conveyor -- in the process of heat transfer.

"It is really astounding how systematic this process worked also for smaller temperature changes in the Antarctic," said team leader Hubertus Fischer from the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Climate changes in the northern hemisphere have already been well documented through ice cores from Greenland, but until recently there was only sketchy evidence from Antarctica to show southern hemisphere variations.

Now a team from the 10-nation European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica has drilled out a core covering a period of 150,000 years from an area of the frozen continent where plentiful annual snowfalls allow detailed analysis.

They found that even short and small temperature changes in the south were connected to fast changes in the north by the changing Atlantic currents.

The MOC carries warm water from the southern hemisphere northwards bringing heat to northern climes.

When the warm water current meets the Greenland ice sheet it cools and sinks, heading south again and driving the conveyor belt process.

"Our data shows that the degree of warming in the south is linearly related to the duration of cold periods in the North Atlantic," Fischer said, describing the process as a "bipolar seesaw."

Antarctica warmed several times between 20,000 and 55,000 years ago while the north was cold and export of warm water from the southern ocean was reduced.

By contrast, Antarctica started to cool every time more warm water started to flow into the north Atlantic during warm events in the north.

The data, using analysis of methane concentrations trapped in the ice, was published in the science journal Nature.

He's Croll.

Rumsfeld Resigning!

About frackin time. The idiot should have been tossed out a long time ago. In fact, he shouldn't have held the post in the first place. This guy is a serious dumbass. At best he should have been muzzled during the run up to Iraq.

I am no fan of the Democrats, by any means, but the Republicans demonstrated that this time around with these congresscritters that they should not be in power. Period. Pelosi as Speaker gives me the heabies jeabies, but damnit, the outgoing 'tards have really blown all their credibility.

Yes, I am a Republican and, no, I am not a Bushite.

Space Race News: Indians on the Moon?

An Indian will walk on the moon in 2020. Or so the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) maintains.

At a forthcoming meeting of the country's top scientists on November 7, ISRO will, for the first time, unveil two of its ambitious plans - to send an Indian into space around 2014 and then to have one walk on the moon about six years later. Both missions will be accomplished without any foreign assistance. ISRO will even find a Sanskrit word equivalent for the US's 'astronaut' and Russia's 'cosmonaut' to describe the Indian in space.

G Madhavan Nair, chairman, ISRO, said the proposed missions would be a national endeavour, with the best of the country's laboratories and research-and-development organisations chipping in with technical know-how. The November 7 meeting - which will be attended, among others, by CNR Rao, chairman of the prime minister's Science Advisory Council - will be followed by another in December. A formal project report will be submitted to the government before the end of the year and trials will start in early 2007.

ISRO will conduct a space-capsule-recovery experiment. A 600-kg module, which will be hoisted by a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket, will orbit the earth for a week and splash down in the Bay of Bengal from where it will be retrieved. The experiment will be repeated in 2008.

I mean no disprect, but India has been planning on doing a lot of different technological feats for some time. They are still unable to produce a nuclear submarine even after working on it for 30 years (+/-). Making the leap from no man in space to lunar walks is nontrivial and can be done in a reasonably quick manner, but color me skeptical that India has the motivation at this juncture to put a man on the moon in the time frames mentioned. I am sure that they will...eventually...but somehow I don't see them making the leap to be in competition with the USA, PRC, RF or EU.

SDSC+ Folks are at it again: Ancient Life and Metals Sims

Researchers in computational biology and marine science have combined their diverse expertise and found that trace-metal usage by present-day organisms probably derives from major changes in ocean chemistry occurring over geological time scales.

Using protein structures for the first time in such a study, the research establishes one of the influences that geochemistry has had upon life.

The study, published in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sought to verify the theory that the rise in atmospheric oxygen some 2.3 billion years ago, and attendant shifts in ocean chemistry, led to changes in types of metals used with protein structures. Such changes are hypothesized to have led to the diversification and increased complexity of the life we see today.

Scientists Chris Dupont, Song Yang, Brian Palenik and Philip Bourne from the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the departments of chemistry and biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) analyzed the metal-binding characteristics of all known protein structures found in all kingdoms of life.

"Protein structures are ideal for this study," Bourne said, "since they are much more conserved than protein sequences, traditionally used in such studies and, furthermore, metal binding can be inferred directly."

Using data generated by Dupont and Yang, the group established that the three superkingdoms of life - Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya -- all use metals differently. The differences reflect the availability of such metals in the ocean as the respective superkingdoms evolved.

The authors conclude that, "these conserved trends are proteomic imprints of changes in trace-metal bioavailability in the ancient ocean that highlight a major evolutionary shift in biological trace-metal usage."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Additional Novarchosaurian Detail

I realized that there were a couple details about the Novarchosaurians that I had been leaving out that makes them rather distinct from birds. After all, despite the changes I had talked about already for various Novarchosaurians, there's not much difference in the descriptions than from birds. So far, three distinctions have either been the odd forms of feet that birds, as yet have not evolved, the recovered arms, or more properly the 100% lack of wings (either replaced by regression to arms or completely by complete removal of even the bones).

The first change is that the keel on the sternum of the novarchosaurians has gone positively ratite. Since these are nonfliers, that is no longer needed. That's a distinction that wouldn't make much difference to most people. You would hardly notice. if at all.

The biggest difference is one you cannot help noticing. They have a tail. Not merely a bird tail of feathers and a little stub of flesh, but a full grown, nearly dinosaurian tail. It has two functions. The first is to act for balance. Some of the novarchosaurians have very long necks that are quite heavy. This balances out the weight for these bipeds (since all of them are bipeds). Secondly, this is where they store their fat for the long dark winters.

Yes, they're still feathered though. :)

Work Cut Out For Me

Dispute Over NW Passage Revived

A long-standing legal wrangle between the United States and Canada could complicate future shipping through the Arctic as global warming melts the ice in the Northwest Passage.

The United States contends that the Northwest Passage, though owned by Canada, is an international strait with free passage for all, like other straits around the world. U.S. officials say they are following a long-standing position in favor of keeping straits free to all navigation and want unimpeded movement of U.S. ships.

Canada counters that it has sole jurisdiction over the Northwest Passage and wants to enforce its own laws on ships in the Arctic waters. Canadian officials argue that their authority over the myriad channels and straits that make up the legendary route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is the best way to minimize unsafe ships and accidental spills in the pristine North.

The issue has suddenly come alive because climate change is reducing the Arctic ice pack that prevents regular shipping through the passage.

OF COURSE! Los Lunas!

Two police officers sued Burger King Corp., claiming they were served hamburgers that had been sprinkled with marijuana.

The lawsuit says Mark Landavazo and Henry Gabaldon, officers for the Isleta Pueblo tribal police, were in uniform and riding in a marked patrol car when they bought meals at the drive-through lane October 8 of a Burger King restaurant in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

The officers ate about half of their burgers before discovering marijuana on the meat, the lawsuit said. They used a field test kit to confirm the substance was pot, then went to a hospital for medical evaluations.

"It gives a whole new meaning to the word 'Whopper,"' the officers' attorney, Sam Bregman, said Monday.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Early Life Fed on Organic Haze

A haze of atmospheric chemicals similar to those now found on Saturn's giant moon Titan might have been a major source of food for ancient life on Earth, a new study suggests.

Scientists have long been fascinated with Titan, which is shrouded by a murky orange atmosphere of smog-like chemicals created as sunlight interacts with methane high above the surface.

"This thick haze completely shrouds Titan, so all you can see in the photographs is orange," said Margaret Tolbert, a chemist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a study co-author.

Tolbert's team wondered if similar chemicals might have formed in early Earth's atmosphere, which at various times also contained methane. So they mixed methane and carbon dioxide—a major constituent of the Earth's primordial atmosphere—in a reaction chamber and exposed it to simulated sunlight.

Researchers had previously thought that carbon dioxide—which is not present in Titan's atmosphere—would stifle the reactions that produce complex molecules.

Instead, Tolbert's team found that their simulated atmosphere produced a stew of organic chemicals.

"Contrary to the early predictions, you get more haze with carbon dioxide," she said. "You also get a richer broth of chemicals, including oxygen-containing molecules.

"They have more energy," she added. "Microorganisms can eat them, so they can be a food source."

In other words, the work suggests that Earth's early atmosphere may have been a veritable banquet for the earliest single-celled organisms.

Tolbert's team reports its findings this week in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Marrow Stem Cells Become blood vessel tissue

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, placed mesenchymal stem cells onto a silicone membrane that was stretched longitudinally once every second. It was a cellular workout routine that helped point the bone marrow stem cell in the direction of becoming the smooth muscle tissue of vascular walls.

The findings, published Monday, Oct 23, in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlight the importance of mechanical forces in stem cell differentiation.

Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to turn into different types of connective tissue including bone, cartilage and muscle. Embryonic stem cells have the advantage of being able to turn into any kind of body tissue and of being easier to work with in the lab, though that flexibility comes with controversy and ethical questions not found in research on adult stem cells.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shenzhou 7

China's next Shenzhou spacecraft to launch astronauts into orbit is under construction as officials draw up plans for the 2008 space shot, the country’s state-run media reported Friday.

The country's next crewed spaceflight, Shenzhou 7, is slated to launch three astronauts spaceward and include at least one spacewalk as China moves forward with plans to build an orbital space station.

“All the equipment of the separate systems has been delivered to China’s space aviation center for assembly,” Qi Faren, chief designer of China’s first five Shenzhou spacecraft, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.

H2 Fuel Cell Vehicle Question

I asked the question on AHF what the impact on local climates would be if all the vehicles on the road were using hydrogen instead of gasoline. we already know that cities produce their own local weather (big hot spot in teh atmopshere...locally). I was curious what might be the consequences of all those cars putting out a nontrivial of water vapor into the local atmosphere. I didn't get any responses. (I also munged the title with a typo too...doh).

So, I went digging around a bit. I found the specs on the GM Sequel: note, I am going to mix and match unit types, so deal. This is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle set to start being sold in a couple years. The storage capacity of a Sequel is 8 kg of hydrogen according the GM site. This is good for 300 miles of travel. That means, and I am sure that Suzanne will eat me for any miscalculations, we will get about 72 kg of water vapor from a single tank of H2. We seem to refuel once per week for my wife's car, so we'll use that as our benchmark. For the SF Bay area that means that we would be putting about 432,000 tons of water vapor into the air around here. Or Phoenix would get around 95,112 tons. Or El Paso would get around 43,200 tons.

This is per week. And assuming that everyone was driving a Sequel.

So what changes would we see? More rain? Just more misery from the humidity? More, stronger wind currents since wetter air is lighter?

I can't believe that there would be no effects! That's lotsa litres of water!

Similar to the One at Work

Bad Luck or Bad Genes: A Short Review

Raup writes a pretty good book here. It's a little dated since it hails a publishing date of originally 1993. There has been a massive amount of work being done in the 'Extinction Sciences' since this one was written. The Permian Extinction is the hot spot to work right now since most of the paleontologists have accepted that a meteor impact was the killer at the KT Boundary (and probably the Chicxulub Crater for that matter, but it's not 100% certain, just 99%, unless you are a Deccan Traps supporter or Gerta Keller). However, even there a concensus seems to be forming with respect to what killed off oh so much of the world's life.

Raup touches on a lot of different subjects in his book. He does not concentrate too much on one mass extinction really. He does dedicate a chapter to the KT Event which is more than he does for any other. There's a reason for this, but I'll touch on it later. Raup waltzes through a lot of background information: why is a mass extinction different than the standard ongoing extinctions that are constantly happening, for example, and a good chunk of 'theory' behind mass extinctions. He explores the possible causes of extinctions - biological and physical - and ultimately settles on what he feels to be the cause for mass extinctions.

His opinion, at least as of the printing of this book, was that all mass extinctions were rock-falling-from-sky induced. He talks quite a bit about this and how he believes that there must be a single cause for all the mass dyings in the paleontological record. He was (and perhaps still is) looking for a Grand Unified Mass Extinction Theory. His outlook is that if we don't have a single unifying theory then we will never really understand why mass extinctions happen. If the current work on the PT Event holds up, it looks as though 'impact uber alles' is going to face an extinction of its own.

On a personal note, this book actuall ties in to my life, but I didn't realize that until actually reading Raup's work. Namely, back in 1996, I was in the middle of discussion on rasfs about the ever over discussed Fermi Paradox. I had taken the stance the observation of our own paleontological record, that the reason for "Where are they?" was that none evolved close by and all the explorers went extinct prior to exploring the whole galaxy: a species lifetime if you will. I was off by a factor of four: the observed 'lifetime' of biological species in the fossil record is four million years here on Earth, not 1 million like I thought. Raup is the source of the observation (page 108). No, I don't sit there and fume over lost Usenet arguments! :P I just remembered the stupid species lifetime because I spent a couple weeks trying to find a cite...

On the whole, Raup's work is good and ought to be read. it takes a little more mathematical route in discussing mass extinctions which is something that not any of the other books I have read do. I do recommend reading Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities right after though for a much updated look at the same thing sans math.