Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Evaporating Hot Jupiter?

The powerful vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to study for the first time the layer-cake structure of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. Hubble discovered a dense upper layer of hot hydrogen gas where the super-hot planet’s atmosphere is bleeding off into space.

The planet, designated HD 209458b, is unlike any world in our solar system. It orbits so close to its star and gets so hot that its gas is streaming into space, making the planet appear to have a comet-like tail. This new research reveals the layer in the planet’s upper atmosphere where the gas becomes so heated it escapes like steam rising from a boiler.

“The layer we studied is actually a transition zone where the temperature skyrockets from about 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 Kelvin) to about 25,540 degrees (15,000 Kelvin), which is hotter than the Sun,” said Gilda Ballester of the University of Arizona in Tucson, leader of the research team. “With this detection we see the details of how a planet loses its atmosphere.”

From here.

tres kewl. Smoke ring, anyone? well, burnt smoke ring. ;)

Ward's Surprising Crocodile Evolution

Peter Ward's most recent book, Out of Thin Air, has a lot of weighty scientific hypotheses contained in it. The whole work requires some serious guts to put out like he has. There are a lot of testable hypotheses there. Two of the hypotheses that I have issues with are that endothermy evolved as a response to a hypoxic atmosphere and what he has to say about crocodiles. The endothermy argument I am going to have to mull over more before posting. However, what he has to say about the evolution of crocodiles is a bit easier to mull, chew on, and spit out. Note th following, wrt to the crocs.

One of the most enduring scientific debates of the past two decades has been about the metabolism of dinosaurs. Were they endotherms, ectotherms, or so massive that neither applied? The arguments have gone back and forth, based on evidence as disparate as bone structure, oxygen isoptopes from dinosaur fossils, and reputed preator-prey ratios. Here it is proposed that endothermy originated as an adaptation to low atmospheric oxygen. If that was the case, endothermy should have evolved in multiple lineages near the end of the Permian. We have seen that such evidence exists for the late Permian therapsids, the lineage leading to mammals. But what of the other groups of Permian reptiles, the diapsids and anapsids? There is no evidence one way or another about the anapsids, but this is not the case for the other large reptilian group, the diapsids (or archosaurs) - the ancestors of crocdiles, dinosaurs, and many other lineages. Until recently most arguments about this lineage have rested on evidence from the modern crocodile group. It is generally agreed that crocodiles are archosaurs belonging to a lineage dating back to the late Permian. According to most phylogenies, this Permian group was also ancestral to the dinosaur-avian lineage and that the fundamental split into separate crocodile and dinosaur-avian lineages took place in the middle to late Triassic. Therefore, late Permian and early Triassic archosaurs were ancestors to both later lineages. So when might endothermy have evolved, if it did at all?

The large number of extant crociles are all ectotherms, and because of this it has been theorized that if endothermy evolved anywhere in the archosaur lineages other than in birds, it did so only in dinosaurs. According to this phylogeny, then, endothermy evolved after the crocodile-like lineage split off from the dinosaur-bird lineage. The former group, known as the crurotarsans, evolved into a number of very successful and common taxa of the middle to late Triassic, including the crocdile-like phytosaurs, the wholly terrestrial aetosaurs, and the carnivorous rauisuchians. Endothermy evolved somewhere on the other great branch, known as archosaurs, the lineage leading to dinosaurs and birds. We know that birds are warm-blooded, and in recent decades there has been a great deal of research and speculation as to whether the ancestors of birds, the saurischian dinosaurs, were themselves endothermic. Several camps of dinosaur specialists have formed around this fundamental question about dinosaur metabolism. One group includes Jack Horner, Robert Bakker, and A. de Riqules arge that dinosaurs were endotherms. More recently, however, a new faction has come forward suggesting that dinosaurs and even the earliest birds were all ectotherms and that endothermy in birds did not arise until at least the Cretaceous Period.

Recently a new hypothesis has been put forward by the same group that argued that the late Permian archosaurs had a four-chambered heart and were at least primitively endothermic [a page earlier in the book, but I don't have time to type in the whole fscking book - WB]. This idea has arisen from the recognition that, like the contemporaneous therapsids, the late Permian and early Triassic archosaurs had a more upright posture with legs beneath the body, rather than sprawled to the side in lizard-like fashion. The skeletons of both groups suggest an active life style of high mobility. In this model, all the basal archosaurs had warm blood. But later, perhaps in the middle Triassic, the crocodile and crocodile-like lineages returned to a largely aquatic lifestyle, and re-evolved ectothermy while maintaining the crocodilian four-chambered heart. The argument here is that ectothermy was thus secondarily re-evolved in this lineage for a simple reason: ectothermy aids diving by enabling the animal to stay underwater longer. [emphasis added - WB] Large size also favors diving and breath holding. For every order of magnitude body mass increases, diving time is doubled. Another adpation to diving is blood "shunting", where oxygenated blood is mixed with less oxygenated blood ruing dives.

This latter view fits well with the history of the archosaurs. Modern crocodiles have four-chambered hearts, a trait associated with endothermy. Additionally, crocodiles came from ancestors that had an upright rather than sprawling posture. This upright posture is found today only in endotherms.

While the major radiation of the arly archosaurs took place in the Triassic, they were present in the late Permian strata. The oldest member of the group is Proerosuchus [aka Chasmatosaurus - WB] from the Karoo of South Africa. Its appearance coincides with the oxygen minimum, and it might be the first of its lineage to have been endothermic.
Out of Thin Air, pgs 151-2.

So, basically, crocs lose their endothermy when they go into the water. While I can't say that this didn't happen, I cannot think of a single instance of any other animal that has done this after returning to the water. Birds? Nope. Mammals? nyet. While crocs can hold their breath for over an hour (quick google shows up to two hours), I am hitting some pretty strong skepticism internally here. If its such a successful strategy, why don't we see more of terrestrial-turned-aquatic critters doing this?

I'm very skeptical.

I can say this might be testable with the extant archosaurs. If the ectothermy has been re-evolved, then there might be a chance there is genetic 'scar tissue' that indicates where it was regained and endothermy, erm, lost. Could we go digging through the crocodilian, bird, and perhaps other diapsid genomes to find the changes?

Maybe we can get Razib, Carlos, and Darren to comment.

Next time, thoughts on 'endothermy as a response to low atmospheric oxygen' and a scenario as pictured by Ward of 'active life style of high mobility' critters standing around doing nada, panting to conserve oxygen all the time because the altitudal compression gave sea level the same oxygen level matched 5k ft of our atmosphere.

A much later update (June 08): I wrote up a post about a paper on basal endothermy in archosaurs.

Permian Extinction: Land Plants

Land-plant diversity and the end-Permian mass extinction

Land-plant diversity and the end-Permian mass extinction P. McAllister Rees*,1

1 Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA

The Permian and Triassic represent a time of major global climate change from icehouse to hothouse conditions and significant (~25°) northward motion of landmasses amalgamated in essentially one supercontinent, Pangea. The greatest of all mass extinctions occurred around the Permian-Triassic boundary (251 Ma), although there is no consensus regarding the cause(s). Recent studies have suggested a meteor impact and worldwide die-off of vegetation, on the basis of sparse local observations. However, new analyses of global Permian and Triassic plant data in a paleogeographic context show that the scale and timing of effects varied markedly between regions. The patterns are best explained by differences in geography, climate, and fossil preservation, not by catastrophic events. Caution should be exercised when extrapolating local observations to global-scale interpretations. At the other extreme, global compilations of biotic change through time can be misleading if the effects of geography, climate, and preservation bias are not considered.

My paleobotany is weaker than it ought to be. PT events wrt to the land plants are very important. I really ought to know more than I do.

Pissing me off

I've tried posting twice about Ward's croc evolution hypothersis wrt their ectothermy, but fscking firefox keeps locking up!!!! damnit!

The New Contient of a million years

Dougal Dixon called it Lemuria in his After Man book. I really wonder what the climate would be like.

Europe's First Stegosaurus?

A Stegosaurus fossil has been discovered in Europe, marking the first time the famous plated dinosaur has been found outside of North America.

The find supports a widely accepted idea that the two continents were once connected by a series of temporary land bridges which surfaced when sea levels dipped, allowing dinosaurs to cross.

“Both coasts were very close and the basins between them could emerge occasionally,” said study leader Fernando Escaso of the University of Autonoma in Madrid, Spain.

Wonder what else is lurking out there.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reading Update & Meme

I finished two books recently. However, I am going to take a minute to make a plea for a meme. I would like for everyone that reads this blog to take the time to read a book. And then post about it. It can be here. It can be on your own blog/LJ/whatever. I would like to see and hear about what people are reading and what they think about what they are reading. This is especially pointed at Suzanne. Unless it's a book best left 'inside the box'.

BTW, James, you're semi-exempt.

The first book I read was a series of interviews with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, called First Person. He makes some interesting points. His rise to power, at least as presented here, is rather inexplicable at face value. There's lots of ways to read between the lines though and its also possible to read too much between the lines. I didn't find him to be a person that I cared for much at all. It's a personal thing. Frex, he's cold: his wife was slipping in and out of conciousness with cracked vertebra (ie bones only) and a fractured skull yet he returned to work. My wife explains that this is pretty common for Russians to treat their wives like that. One insight that I gained that explains a lot of his behavior in power is that he studied judo (and sambo for that matter). He states that judo is not just a martial art, but rather a philosophy. Obviously, Shrubbish shoul have read that one and taken it to heart first, da? If he was even capable of that. It's interesting to see what others would think of Putin through this vehicle.

The second book I just finished I just plain devoured. It was Peter Ward's Out of Thin Air. I've wanted to read this for months. It was well worth it. Everything that I complained about with Gorgon - that it contained almost purely travelogue and zilch science - has just about done a 180 degree turn here. This is almost purely science. Bravo, Dr Ward! Ward's narration is good and goes from topic to topic building the case for different hypotheses about how oxygen levels over the Phanerozoic Eon were one of the most fundamentally important evolutionary forcing element. He makes some good cases. I am not completely sold on the basic idea and I think that the computer modeling needs to be cross checked or at least calibrated based on geochemical analysis. The book is pretty damned short: 282 pages. However, it is so packed with stuff to contemplate, it feels heavier and well worth the time to chew on. I recommend it. Carlos, Doug, get your fscking hands on copies so I can compare notes. (I'll make a separate post on his archosaurian/crocodilian hypothesis in a bit).

I have started reading Horns and Beaks. I am a little disappointed. It's far more technical in the dry 'this is a collection of papers' way than anything. I am only three papers in though. However, Darren Naish is cited already three times. Way to go, Darren!

Monday, January 29, 2007

What It Really Means

The Guardian has an article about who the British government is going to charge with killing Litvinenko. This is the 'spy' that was killed by using polonium in such a horrible way. At the same time Voice of America has an article about the Russian in Georgia that was 'stung' trying to sell weapons grade plutonium.

What this could mean ought to be pretty damned obvious. It's been postulated for a long time that this was true. Now it seems to have been confirmed. I am sure that other people have made the connection, but let me say it here: Russia does not control its radioactive substances be they uber expensive polonium (over $10 million worth, iirc) or weapons grade plutonium. weapons grade.

Let's hope that I am wrong. If I am not, we're in for a deep load of shibbit.

Which SF Author Am I?

I am:
Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)
A quiet and underrated master of "hard science" fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Friday, January 26, 2007


Just not enough time today to do the Permian or Mexican Annexation posts like I'd hoped. Tuesday then. Monday I have a meeting with a company to get an estimate on site improvements.

"Olmec" city not in Olmec Metropole

A 2,500-year-old city influenced by the Olmecs, often referred to as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, has been discovered hundreds of miles away from the Olmecs' Gulf coast territory, archaeologists said.

The remains of Zazacatla are providing insight into the early arrival of advanced civilizations in central Mexico, while also providing lessons about the risks to ruins posed by modern development that now cover much of the ancient city.

Archaeologist Giselle Canto said Wednesday that two statues and architectural details at the site, 25 miles south of Mexico City, indicate that the inhabitants of Zazacatla adopted Olmec styles when they changed from a simple, egalitarian society to a more complex, hierarchical one.

"When their society became stratified, the new rulers needed emblems ... to justify their rule over people who used to be their equals," Canto said of the inhabitants, who may not have been ethnically Olmec, but apparently revered the culture as the most prestigious.

MesoAmerican archaelogy is cosntantly changing. Which is just plain damned cool.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

BBC: Hobbit Cave to be excavated again

Archaeologists who found the remains of human "Hobbits" have permission to restart excavations at the cave where the specimens were found.

Indonesian officials have blocked access to the cave since 2005, following a dispute over the bones.

But Professor Richard "Bert" Roberts, a member of the team that found the specimens, told BBC News the political hurdles had now been overcome.

Huzzah! Let's see what they find!

No Coal for California

California regulators approved rules Thursday banning power companies from buying electricity from high-polluting sources, including most out-of-state coal-burning plants.

The rules -- aimed at reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming -- could have a far-reaching effect on the energy market across the West.

While there are almost no coal-fired plants in California, the nation's most populous state, about 20 percent of the state's electricity comes from coal plants in other Western states.

The Public Utilities Commission voted 4-0 to prohibit utilities and other energy providers from entering into long-term contracts with sources that emit more carbon dioxide than a modern natural gas plant.

I am not a fan of coal, so I ahve little objections from that PoV. On the other hand, I have to wonder about what this will do to power costs here in Cali.

Iran into orbit

Iran has converted its most powerful ballistic missile into a satellite launch vehicle. The 30-ton rocket could also be a wolf in sheep's clothing for testing longer-range missile strike technologies, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine reports in its Jan. 29 issue.

The Iranian space launcher has recently been assembled and "will liftoff soon" with an Iranian satellite, according to Alaoddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

The move toward an independent space launch capacity is likely to ratchet up concern in the U.S. and Europe about Iran's strategic capabilities and intents. Orbiting its own satellite would send a powerful message throughout the Muslim world about the Shiite regime in Tehran.

Nukes, Orbital capabilities. huh. So, in 2050, who will be more 'powerful'? Or perhaps more important on the world stage? Iran? Or Russia? Demographics has it's play here. Anyways, if you are going to write a near future SF book, better think about what a space faring Iran might be like!

Ukraine UnOranged

The most criticized appointment as deputy head of the MVS and head of the MVS General Staff has been that of Serhiy Popkov, who was commander of MVS Internal Troops from November 2004-February 2005.

On November 28, 2004, Popkov, on the instructions of then-president Kuchma, Prime Minister Yanukovych and MVS Minister Mykola Bilokin (who remains in exile in Russia after fleeing criminal charges) dispatched MVS troops with live ammunition to central Kyiv to suppress the Orange Revolution. MVS troops only returned to their barracks after high-level diplomatic intervention from the United States, encountering blocked roads leading into Kyiv, and open support given to the protestors by military ground forces.

In a rare display of unity the Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and Yushchenko protested the return of Popkov to the MVS. Parliamentary speaker Moroz warned that public opinion should have been taken into account when making this decision (Ukrayinska pravda, January 11, 12).

Prime Minister Yanukovych meanwhile, described Popkov as “an expert of the highest kind who commands great respect.” Yanukovych continued, “There was never any infringements on his part throughout his entire career during which he worked in a qualitative manner” (Ukrayinska pravda, January 12).

Unless this next election ahs a radical swing to it, I'd have to say that Yuschenko is, well, screwed. The guy that ordered troops with live ammo to put down the Orange Revolution after the blatant theft of the election is back in the security services in a big way.


People are wondering why I am so...pessimistic wrt to Ukraine these days.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Permian Ocean Stagnated from Glacial Melt?

While I am working out the diagram for the Permian Extinction post that I promised, I realized that there might have been another mitigating circumstance that helped stagnate the Panthalassa, Neotethys and Tethys Oceans.

There has been some discussion as of late wrt to the Greenland glaciers and the North Atlantic current. The idea I seen bandied around is that if enough of the Greenland glacier were to melt, it will have changed the salinity in the top layers of the ocean that would lead to a shutdown of thermohaline circulation. The thought that occurred to me is that this might apply to the Permian.

Consider, during the Carboniferous there was extensive glaciation as Gondwanaland drifted south. This continued into the Permian for some time. If the extensive glaciers were still around up until the Siberian Traps began spewing out carbon dioxide, then the extensive warming might have melted enough of the glaciers, fast enough, to induce some severe stratification of the oceans. The lower layers would turn anoxic and a comfortable home for the hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria. As the oceans warmed, the oxygen levels would fall, and as the hydrogen sulfide passed into the upper layers, kill off more life and reduce the oxygen levels more. This would allow the bacteria to take up residence here too and make things all the worse.

Blend in the possibility of hurricanes on a massive scale - since you have very hot atmosphere, high humidity, and very warm surface ocean waters - and you have hydrogen sulfide being imported via rain inland.


It depends on when the end of glaciation took place and the Siberian Traps started. Something that's mildly testable.

Titanis walleri in America

A University of Florida-led study has determined that Titanis walleri, a prehistoric 7-foot-tall flightless “terror bird,” arrived in North America from South America long before a land bridge connected the two continents.

UF paleontologist Bruce MacFadden said his team used an established geochemical technique that analyzes rare earth elements in a new application to revise the ages of terror bird fossils in Texas and Florida, the only places in North America where the species has been found. Rare earth elements are a group of naturally occurring metallic elements that share similar chemical and physical properties.

“It was previously thought that Titanis immigrated to Texas across the Panamanian land bridge that formed about 3 million years ago connecting North and South America,” said MacFadden, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF. “But the rare earth element analysis of a fossil Titanis bone from Texas determines its age to be 5 million years old. This shows that the bird arrived 2 million years before the land bridge formed, probably across islands that formed what today is the Isthmus of Panama.”

Thanx to James for pointing it out to me.

NCAR's new computing center

A new center that will use supercomputers to collect and analyze weather data will be built in Cheyenne, provided it wins approval from the National Science Foundation and the Wyoming Legislature.

Construction on the $60 million data center for the geosciences will begin this year, according to an announcement Tuesday from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Wait...Who comes from Wyoming again? NCAR is in Golden, least for now.

I just said WHAT?!

I woke up this morning in a foul, foul mood. Avrora woke up a lot last night (as she had the night before). I'd had maybe four hours of sleep. I snapped at Lyuda and need to seriously apologize. I was still feeling like a troll after I helped them get out the door and to the car so Lyuda could get Avrora to daycare and herself to class. I got in the jeep and realized that I needed gas, but didn't have time to run up to Costco (where the gas is often 15 cents/gallon cheaper). I stopped at the corner gas station to get a few gallons so that my jeep wouldn't run out of gas before I was able to make the run.

I started up pumping and a local news camera crew came from nowhere. The camera got pinted in my face, at whatever I was doing, and the reporter, in his 'hi, I'm a nice guy and you need to TRUUUUUUUUUUUST me' tone asked if I would like to comment on President Bush's State of the Union address wrt to the gas commentary Shrub made. I made the following comment (or something close akin, forgive me, no caffiene in the blood this morning, I dare not risk it with this mood!):

I'm sorry, but I didn't get to see it [Shrubbish's State of the Union address] last night because I was helping my wife with her homework. I need to get online and read it. I prefer not to make innane commentary on something I don't know anything about unlike some people."

That last part I said as I gave the reporter a nasty glare. He looked like I had shoved something sharp and oversized into places not meant to be intruded upon. He made some comment like 'uh, okay' and wandered off to find someone else to harass.

I'm at work now and still feeling like a man eating troll hopped up on speed. I need to go find a happy place to chill out. I really hope that doesn't make it on TV...sheesh.

Note to reporters though: keep yourselves back away, far away! from the troll in the morning.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another Permian Extinction Post Coming

It's coming along. I'm going to revisit the sequence of events that caused the Great Dying that I posted earlier first and then do the overdue Permian Ecology post. I want to post a diagram of the feedbacks and sequence of events to make this coming post a little clearer. I want to also see if I can get permission to post a diagram from Benton's work on the Paleozoic End Times.

The first post should be done by Friday.

Monday, January 22, 2007

China: We're not Militarizing Space

Chinese Foreign ministry officials have told a visiting U.S. diplomat that China's successful test of an anti-satellite weapon should not be seen as a threat and does not signal the beginning of a race to militarize space, the State Department said Monday.


High Powered Microwave Weapons Are Near

Electronic warfare is becoming less a science of developing new technologies and more a process of sensor fusion, target networking and finding new ways to manipulate existing tools of the trade. A case in point--lasers and high-power microwave devices long have been eyed as competing directed-energy attack options. However, researchers are now combining the two to produce smaller, cheaper, more powerful, nonkinetic weapons. Electronic attack has taken a new path as well, shifting from covering enemy emissions with noise to finding, penetrating and exploiting enemy networks from low-power cell-phone networks to sophisticated air defense systems. The following articles explore some of those changes.

High-power microwave weapons may be on the verge of a high-speed turn toward the practical.

An advanced concept, pioneered by BAE Systems' researchers, uses light to multiply the speed and power at which HPM pulses--powerful enough to destroy enemy electronics--can be produced without the need for explosives or huge electrical generators.

Researchers predict leaps of 10-100 times in power output within two years. That advance could push the beam-weapon technology far beyond the 1-10-gigawatt limit of current tactical-size HPM devices. Long-standing industry estimates are that it would require a 100-gigawatt pulse for a few nanoseconds to disable a cruise missile at a useful range.

BAE Systems is not alone in the chase. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also building distributed array radars that can produce air-to-air and surface-to-air HPM weapons effects, contend longtime Pentagon radar specialists. In particular, the F-22, F-35, F/A-18E/F and newest F-15 radars are designed to accept modifications that would focus their beams to produce HPM energy spikes powerful enough to disable cruise, anti-aircraft, air-to-air and emitter-seeking missiles. Germany's Diehl is developing suitcase-size HPM devices that could be placed surreptitiously in a target building to damage electronics such as computers.

In addition, the U.S. military is giving classified briefings on the threat of HPM weapon technologies being developed in China and Russia. The Russians are believed to be developing radio-frequency microwave weapons for air defense, and the Chinese are developing HPM and electromagnetic pulse weapons for information warfare.

The Future is Now.


A bit more seriously, directed energy weapons have a pretty good chance of revolutionizing what we do in warfare. James also noted about the railgun that's progressing for the USN.

NERSC is looking for a New Director

Minor reorg. The position requires some serious chops.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I ended up deciding on the books I wanted to get. I changed around some that I had selected before. A few didn't have exactly what I wanted and others I simply just changed my mind about. That said this order was nontrivial in size. I did end up picking up more than a couple SF books this time. That's been atypical of me for a while. I simply decided that I wanted to let the brain hang loose a little bit this time.

I continued my Deep Time fascination/education. I picked up Vincent Courtillot's work on mass extinctions: Evolutionary Catastrophes. I also picked up Peter Ward's Out of Thin Air: this one had some modeling in it and that makes me - the HPC type I am - very curious. I also grabbed Horns And Beaks. Cerotopsians are my favourite dinosaurs and I simply couldn't resist. I also picked up Modeling Extinction. That ought to be interesting as well from the HPC modsim geek PoV. I also picked up Alvarez's T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. I gave up on (for the moment) Dragons in the Dust, but I am waivering again. I really want to know about big beautiful varanids (maybe I can tickle Darren Naish's interest enough to post something on the subject?). I really want a copy of Biotic Recovery from Mass Extinction Events. However the $200 price tag makes me wary.

In the book research department, I picked up Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World, but abandoned Ancient Maya. The issue being I am getting a little Maya'ed out. I'd really like to learn more about the El Mirador basin and early-preclassic Maya, but I am floundering in finding a good book on the subject.

In the general education arena - something I am kinda not following through on recently as I've been focused on reading all those books on house building, I picked up The Collapse of Complex Societies at Carlos' recommendation to contrast with that person that "lies with maps". I also picked up a copy of The Insular Cases And the Emergence of American Empire.

The SF books that I picked up are pretty mundane. I decided on Charlie's Accelerando, to give Reynold's another try with Redemption Ark, to contrast C&R with an older Brit writer's work with Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth (a story I read a loooong time ago, but haven't returned to), and finally to delve into some oldies, but goodies with Asimov's Caves of Steel and Robots of Dawn.

I am still reading the book on foundation design - it's slow going for me because it doesn't hold my interest when mass extinctions are calling! - and First Person. Putin's...interesting...on a personal level. I related a few things back to my wife and she all but hissed with dismay. Her opinion of him went down even more.

This will be my last book collection until at least April and probably May or June even. There's lots to read there, but the SF stuff is basically mind candy and gets eaten uberfast. It's the other stuff that I have to stop and think about to one extent or another.

Phytomining: a bit dated though

A small plant, alyssum, could turn farmers into miners through its ability to absorb metals such as nickel and cobalt into its leaves and stems. Perhaps this sounds strange, but research led by Dr. Bruce Conard, Vice-President, Environmental and Health Sciences, suggested that it could be an economic proposition. "Based on research to date, it is not that wild an idea, and Inco is one of the leaders in this area of technology." says Bruce.


Currently our plans call for testing the growing process in Indonesia and experimenting with different varieties of alyssum. Farmers in Indonesia may be able to plant and harvest alyssum on land naturally rich in nickel. As the soil is many metres deep, "nickel farming" could continue for centuries.

I wonder if it worked out. That website was from 2002...

Friday, January 19, 2007

¡Sí! Mexico! Yes! The Prelude

As some of you know by now, most of my long time readers do at least, that I am an expansionist. I believe in idea that the American borders are not fixed. They could and should extend beyond their current geographic locations. I have occasionally teased, taunted, and purred - erm, metaphorically, folks! - at some of my canadian friends over the subject. I have occasionally teased Brit friends that they could become a state (or five) instead of joining the EU. It's fun for amusement. Ditto about taunting the folks that worry about American culture radically diverting from what they grew up with (ie those that worry about the so-called Latinization of America).

Realistically, this is my kooky belief. Everyone is allowed one and this is it for me. Well, that and the fact that IBM derived machines (aka seaborg) hate and fear me: they show it by crashing when I go on rotation even when I don't login to them! It's bad enough that my wife thinks someone's messing with me at work. A bit more on topic though, the likelihood of Canada or Britian or Mexico joining the US is very, very low.

I do try to keep tabs on our bordering neighbors even so. Google alerts are one of the tools that I use for that. This is especially helpful with Mexico since I don't read spanish well as yet and the translator tools are not that good, frankly. One of the most recent emails from GAs that I recieved was from what seems to be a rather distasteful site with an article entitled, "Top Ten Reasons Why the US Should Not Marry Mexico" (google it if you want, I found it very distasteful and refuse to link). I then found the rest of the website to be rather nativist and as a husband of an immigrant and descendant of scores of immigrants (as well as having ancestors here prolly long before the dimwits at that website) I find the whole thing ridiculously hypocritical.

That made me realize that if I really believe that we ought to expand the borders, that I really ought to comment more on it. The very least I ought to write things that are something of a rebuttal to crap like the above. I have posted some about Canada. I need to do this for Mexico.

I'll be starting next week.

Second International Conference on Synthetic Biology

"Utter the wirds 'synthetic biology,' and no tangible consumer products come to mind. Rather the words 'synthetic biology' evokes images of amd scientists mixing liquids with arcane names for purposes that can hardly be elucidated to fellow mad scientists, much less laymen."

- Cokie Hu, MIT, student
There was a bulletin via email at work and it pointed out the webcast that has been recorded and posted up on Google's videos. Watch and see some interesting stuff.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Greenland: A Horrifying Thought

I was just talking with a coworker. The topic of Greenland came up. We joked that we ought to go speculate for land there, but Warming Island came up and the fact that we need to make sure that the land is land. Then the nasty thought hit me: do we really know how much of Greenland is land and how much of it is really a huge iceberg? After all, 10 km of ice disappeared to make Warming Island when it was thought to be a pennisula of the mainland! If the ice sheet is mostly sitting at or below sea level, we're in deep shibbit. Wikipedia is hardly an authorative source, but it does state most of the interior of Greenland under the ice sheet is at sea level...

*glyph of concern*

Fermi Paradox Answer?

This paper investigates the possible use of space probes to explore the Milky Way, as a means both of finding life elsewhere in the Galaxy and as finding an answer to the Fermi paradox. I simulate exploration of the Galaxy by first examining how long time it takes a given number of space probes to explore 40,000 stars in a box from -300 to 300 pc above the Galactic thin disk, as a function of Galactic radius. I then model the Galaxy to consist of ~260,000 of these 40,000 stellar systems all located in a defined Galactic Habitable Zone and show how long time it takes to explore this zone. The result is that with 8 probes, each with 8 subprobes ~4% of the Galaxy can be explored in 9.57*10^{9} years. Increasing the number of probes to 200, still with 8 subprobes each, reduces the exploration time to 4*10^{8} years.

The abstract comes from here.

Not sure I buy it. It also assumes that there's no von Neumann machines obviously.

China's ASAT

U. S. intelligence agencies believe China performed a successful anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile.

The Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, NASA and other government organizations have a full court press underway to obtain data on the alleged test, Aviation Week & Space Technology will report in its Jan. 22 issue.

If the test is verified it will signify a major new Chinese military capability.

Isn't it interesting that China has been one of the most vocal countries against the US 'weaponizing' space and yet in the past couple months they have tested, apparently successfully, blinding laser and kinetic kill ASATs. Huh.

I'd have to say taht space is weaponized. For better or worse.

FWIW, I'm definitely not against it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Toy Has Arrived.

They're installing it downstairs now. There's even a little Cray Lady.

Damn it's impressive how fast they're moving.

Nanotech and Berkeley

Where I work recently opened the newest facility at the Lab, The Molecular Foundry. It's a facility dedicated to researching nanotech and nanoscale science. The City of Berkeley, aka the People's Republic of Berkeley, requires a lot of paperwork whenever the Lab wants to build something. I mean a lot. So when we built the tMF, we complied with the construction codes. The article linked to above notes that Berkeley didn't have a clue about what we were doing and recently passed some stringent code wrt to nanotech. In some senses its understandable, but in others...the way Berkeley approached it:

“We sent them a bunch of questions, starting with: ‘What the heck is a nanoparticle?’ ” Mr. Al-Hadithy said.


That could have been answered without asking the Lab about it. I guess perhaps I am just one of those people that are aware enough of what's going on around him technowise that I knew the answer and perhaps it's just unfair of me to think this, but...where the heck has Berkeley been? Nanotech has been talked about in one form or another for over a decade and a half now! Then again, I have said before that Berkeley is that place that the Sixties didn't simply fade away. It must be a refugium! I do have to wonder what it will be like with the passing of the Boomers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Done with rotation

Thank goodness. I have a recalctrant node on our SP5 I need to finish up with, but it has deep troubles. Curse RSCT, curse it! However, I'm done and going home to pagerless space once more.

Blessed Be Seymour.

Revelation Space

I just finished - last night - one of the books my wife gave to me for my birthday. It was an interesting read. Reynolds is one of the British Invasion of SF in recent years. It was an okay read with some bits that I didn't care for.

I should really wait a bit more before saying this, like after I read some of the other Britvaders, but there seems to be a certain flavour to their stories that is not or are not there for the Yanks' versions. it also seems rather distinct from Clarke as well. I am not sure what exactly it is yet, but I am having my suspicions. Namely it's in how they treat the characters and more specifically the endings of their novels. I'll post a bit more on that when I've digested a few more.

The part that I really didn't like about the ending, frankly. The loops thrown about the neutron star seemed like they were tacked on at the end and not where the author originally wanted to go. I was unsure where that was, and it may have been where he planned to go in the first palce, but...oh well. I'll look for another book by him to see if I like/not like his work. A single book isn't fair to judge by.

Ick, Baxter was right about something.

Plesiadapiforms are primate ancestors. I feel a little dirty acknowledging Baxter was right about something. ;)

A new study led by a University of Florida paleontologist reconstructs the base of our family tree and extends its roots 10 million years, a finding that sheds new light on the origin and earliest stages of primate evolution.

Published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and featured on the cover of its Jan. 23 print edition, the study offers compelling evidence that a group of archaic mammals called plesiadapiforms (please-ee-ah-dape-i-forms) are more closely related to modern primates than to flying lemurs, which previously had been proposed.

The two-part study examined specimens representing more than 85 modern and extinct species and provides evidence that plesiadapiforms are the most primitive primates. The team also discovered two 56-million-year-old fossils, the most primitive primate skeletons ever described.

Are they full skeletons? Are they actually plesiadapiforms? I can't seem to find the PNAS article they're talking about.

Warming Island

The NY Times has an article that goes through the finding of a new island to the east of Greenland. It had been thought to be a pennisula on the mainland, but really happens to be an island. Ten years ago, it was connected to teh mainland by 10 km, yes, 10 kilometers, of ice that has melted away.

I guess I will have to get back to planning the Greenland ecology again.

Sweden's Treeline much higher

"The tree line has moved by up to 200 metres (656 feet) in some places. Trees have not grown at such high levels for around 7,000 years," Leif Kullman, a professor at Umeaa University's department of ecology and environmental science, told AFP Tuesday.

The tree line represents a limit in mountainous, northern and southern latitudes beyond which trees do not grow.
That's a rather high climb in such a short period.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Outta Here

The engineers are going to be hours more working, so I am leaving. They'll page me and I'll work on stuff then. Oy.

A Canuck with Battle Armour

The grizzly man is back, and this time he's ready to take on bullets and bombs.

Troy Hurtubise, the Hamilton-born inventor who became famous for his bulky bear-protection suit by standing in front of a moving vehicle to prove it worked, has now created a much slimmer suit that he hopes will soon be protecting Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

He has spent two years and $15,000 in the lab out back of his house in North Bay, designing and building a practical, lightweight and affordable shell to stave off bullets, explosives, knives and clubs. He calls it the Trojan and describes it as the "first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armour."

We need to get James one of these.

Nobels as Valid Measurement of Scientific Progress?

If this statistic of Nobel prizes is a valid measure of revolutionary science, then the main conclusion is that the USA has emerged to become the only nation that supports revolutionary science on a large scale. It seems that long-term strength in revolutionary science is mainly a product of a nation possessing numerous elite research institutions where revolutionary science thrives. A nation lacking such institutions will win relatively few Nobel prizes, and prizes will be spread around many institutions (eg. in Germany, the various Max Planck research institutions sometimes win a single Nobel prize, but no specific institute has ever won two prizes in 20 years).

Over the past 60 years, the UK has declined from being the only non-US focus of revolutionary science, to joining Switzerland and Germany (with nine prizes) as the kind of place where normal science has been thriving but revolutionary science is thinly-distributed and sporadic in occurrence. Presumably, recent US improvement has therefore been driven mainly by within-nation competition.

In contrast to the picture of long term decline in Nobel-prize-winning revolutionary science; UK and European scientific production (also that of Chinese science) is probably catching up with the USA in terms of scientometric measures such as numbers of publications and citations [12,13]. This difference between national performance in normal and revolutionary science seems to suggest that the research systems of revolutionary science and normal science are evolving towards separation [3]. Clearly, growth of the two types of science does not always go-together.

In future, it would probably be beneficial if this increasing separation between revolutionary and normal science were made explicit, with institutional self-definition and specialization, and differentiated funding streams and evaluation criteria for the small number of elite revolutionary science institutions [4]. Part of this process would be the development of a distinctive set of scientometric measures for revolutionary science. Counting Nobel laureates could be a first step in this direction.

There are a lot of profound discoveries that are simply not noticed by the Nobels: they are sometimes in areas that are not covered. It's something to think about though. As is the second part.

At Work

Today's MLK day and most people are at home. since I am on rotation, of course something happened and I am at work. I would have been only required to carry a pager and be available other, but...not this time. There's something about IBM SP nodes and me. Dunno what, but...AIX definitely feels like aches.

We have plans to take Avrora up to the Lawrence Hall of Science today. Her nap is in less than an hour and then we'll run up to Berkeley.

With luck, I can get out of here in an hour or so.

heh. right.

I kill myself.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Now I Know

Not too long ago, someone asked me what I would do if I got stuck in an elevator.

Now I know.

I read.

Friday, January 12, 2007

End of the CIS?

Analysts have commented that the Belarus-Russian tiff spells the end of the post-USSR Commonwealth of Independent States. The energy conflict has effectively doomed the CIS. Over the last ten years, Russia supplied CIS member states with inexpensive energy in the hopes of eventually wooing them into reintegrating with Russia. Now that the Putin administration has concluded that even its closest former ally, Belarus, is uninterested in reunification, it has moved from treating the states as coddled former satrapies to capitalist countries capable of paying prevailing market rates, despite the damage inflicted on their struggling economies.

What isn't being said here is that Russia is also stating that things will get 'back to normal' if the assorted xUSSR states will give in to numerous other demands: like selling their ifnrastructre to Russian companies (frex, Armenia or Georgia). It will be interesting to watch.

30 million more men than women

China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women in less than 15 years as a gender imbalance resulting in part from the country's tough one-child policy becomes more pronounced, state media reported Friday. Traditional preferences for sons has led to the widespread - but illegal - practice of women aborting babies if an early term sonogram shows it is a girl.

The tens of millions of men who will not be able to find a wife could also lead to social instability problems, the China Daily said in a front-page report.

Well, the traditional way of dealing with too many young and sexually frustrated males is what again? Perhaps we'll get lucky and they'll go pick up women from other countries instead: the cultural implications of that might be rather byzantine. There might be a bunch of immigration instead. We'll see. Ought to be interesting. Maybe Demography Matters will tackle this one.


This was a pretty interesting little webpage. I really wish ther ewas a good and extensive book on the nonmammalian synapsids. How much do you think it would cost to bribe Darren Naish to write it? ;)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What Really Caused the KT Extnction

Blue Origin Goddard Flight Video

For those of you that are a little behind I found a Youtube video of Bezos' rocket. It'd be interesting if he made it to orbit with an SSTO prior to anyone else.

Blog Anniversary

It's been two years since I first blogged. I have a small following now. Mostly on a personal level or about my babbling about mass extinctions. It's been an interesting ride so far...

More Poms in Space

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

This is an alleged advertisement placed by the Discovery expedition to Antartica led by Robert Scott and including Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1901. Shackleton would later go on to set further precedents in Antarctic exploration including the furthest south expedition in 1909. Fast-forward almost 100 years and the NASA Moonbase, in the still more desolate and forbidding region of the Moon’s south pole, is a crater named after Shackleton himself. The same spirit of exploration that drove the great British explorers of the 19th and 20th century is found today in the American space agency. It’s easy to imagine the explorers of old picturing themselves as one member of an illustrious and continuous line of explorers who, as technology improved with time, would naturally go on further, higher, and to do even greater things. The naming of that region of the Moon is testament to that spirit. Shackleton’s inspirational will and vision provided a legacy far beyond what he probably would have comprehended, extending beyond even this planet. It will be a tragedy if the UK cannot see the good in being able to make a recognizable mark to space exploration as a distinct collaborator rather than a subcontracted minor player.
I never really understood why the Brits walked away from space exploration. Even if they had gone on to just do unmanned probes for an extended period, it would have been better than how this played out. True, they had economic problems, but one could imagine a TL where the Brits give up their earth bound Empire and instead became the leading light in space.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I'm on rotation and have to much to do today to blog much.


Poms to the Moon!

Britain could send its first un-manned mission to the moon by 2010 to study the lunar surface and find the best site for humans to inhabit, the BBC reported.

A report by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a top British space company, found the cost of space travel had fallen enough to let the government consider such a probe, it said.

Britain's astronomy funding agency, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, was understood to be considering the idea, the broadcaster added.

"We are going to go to the moon in order to generate new business opportunities, science opportunities and develop technology," Surrey Satellite Chief Executive Martin Sweeting, who wrote the report, told BBC News late on Tuesday.

The idea would be to launch two forays to the moon.

The first, named "Moonlight," would fire four darts the size of suitcases onto the moon's surface from orbit to test for quakes, tremors and other data, the BBC said.

If the mission was successful, a second probe, "Moonraker" would be launched with the aim of landing on the moon.

Let's hope it turns out better than the Beagle 2.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Interesting idea. Wonder if we could make this work with very hot things like metals...well, not this one, but you get the idea.

Stolen From James Nicoll

An Extremophile Post for Carlos

Long-Term Sustainability of a High-Energy, Low-Diversity Crustal Biome

Li-Hung Lin,1,2* Pei-Ling Wang,3 Douglas Rumble,4 Johanna Lippmann-Pipke,5 Erik Boice,6 Lisa M. Pratt,6 Barbara Sherwood Lollar,7 Eoin L. Brodie,8 Terry C. Hazen,8 Gary L. Andersen,8 Todd Z. DeSantis,8 Duane P. Moser,9 Dave Kershaw,10 T. C. Onstott1

Geochemical, microbiological, and molecular analyses of alkaline saline groundwater at 2.8 kilometers depth in Archaean metabasalt revealed a microbial biome dominated by a single phylotype affiliated with thermophilic sulfate reducers belonging to Firmicutes. These sulfate reducers were sustained by geologically produced sulfate and hydrogen at concentrations sufficient to maintain activities for millions of years with no apparent reliance on photosynthetically derived substrates.

1 Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.
2 Department of Geosciences, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
3 Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
4 Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC, USA.
5 GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg, Potsdam, Germany.
6 Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA.
7 Department of Geology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
8 Ecology Department, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA.
9 Division of Earth and Ecosystems Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV, USA.
10 Mponeng Mine, Anglo Gold, Johannesburg, South Africa.

One critter apparently uses uranium to get useful energy from water. From the newsletter at work:

In their paper, the researchers and their collaborators describe a community of bacteria from the species known as Firmicutes that lives in a South African mine 2.8 kilometers below the earth’s surface and uses radioactive uranium to convert water molecules to useable energy. The discovery expanded the realm of Earth's biosphere, the three-dimensional shell that encompasses all planetary life.

I wonder what sort of SFnal ecology you could use if this is scalable to larger organisms with enough uranium around and water around.

Books Being Considered

As I said before my wife got me an Amazon gift card for Xmas. I have a list of possibilities.

The first few are related to my curiousity, almost obsession, about Deep Time and mass extinctions. The first is Modeling Extinction. The second is Out of Thin Air which is almost a given for my purchase this time. The third is Dawn of the Dinosaurs which details the Triassic. I am also considering Dinosaurs of Darkness about the critters that lived down very far south during the Mesozoic, but the review isn't that good (any coutner sugegstions, Darren?). In a semi related topic, I am looking at Dragons in the Dust about Australia's giant varanid. Instead of Dinosaurs of Darkness, I might go for Horns And Beaks. I am also tempted with Evolutionary Catastrophes.

On the book research front, Demarest's Ancient Maya is one being considered as is Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World, and Galinsky's Augustan Culture is also interesting and tempting. I have half a mind to toss some of these in favour of more Deep Time books.

Two I am not going to toss because I have postponed getting them for so long are The Insular Cases And the Emergence of American Empire and The Collapse of Complex Societies. These would be for my own education.

For the house, Manual of Construction Documentation is planned. I do need to go get Prescriptive Methods from the ICF guys though. I can't get that through Amazon for some reason. So that might have to wait a tad.

A Rare Bit of Wisdom from a Bay Area Politician

"Someone wiser than Ron Dellums once said, 'Democracy is a messy business,' " Dellums [the new Oakland mayor] said, instantly stilling the room of 1,900 gathered at the Paramount Theatre. "But it's all we have. We have to deal with each other with respect and dignity. Whether you agree or disagree with our distinguished colleagues, let's be respectful. We must signal to our children that if we're asking them to solve problems short of madness and insanity and war, we must do likewise."

Amazing coming from a Bay Area Politician.

Europe Moves Forward with UCAV

A French-led effort to develop a stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle is set to move into high gear as engineers begin to prepare detailed definition of the Neuron demonstrator.

For the six partner nations, Neuron is a major attempt to explore what uses a UCAV capability might serve. For industry, it's seen as a vital effort to keep pace with the nearest competitors. Program planners acknowledge that similar U.S. and British undertakings might be further advanced (AW&ST Dec. 11, 2006, p. 35). But with military strategists everywhere still grappling with UCAV requirements, they are confident there's still enough time for Europe to be competitive. In fact, they are already eyeing an extension to the 10-year program to allow more potential uses to be explored.


What comes after the demonstration flights is anyone's guess. Some participating countries, notably France, are eyeing an eventual follow-on UCAV development program. Others, such as Sweden, are not even sure they would want to arm unmanned aircraft. One of the goals of the test flight campaign will be to help determine future requirements. However, most experts believe a real UCAV is unlikely to be fielded before 2030, which would imply kickoff of development no sooner than 2015.

It's good to see that the Europeans are building an independant tech base, far are they behind? Quite a bit at this point. A friend of mine - that I think reads this blog now and again stated back in the mid 1990s that it didn't matter if Europe didn't do the tech development because they would use the second and third round developed tech by buying it from us without having to go through the costs of investment in the immature technologies like the US does. That's definitely true, but if the Europeans don't want Washington to hold the strings on what they can and cannot sell and to who or, heaven forbid, the US and EU fall out almost completely, be able to use it for themselves, then, well...


My sweet wife refused to wake me prior to 10 this morning. I had continued to work until around 3ish last night. All's done though. I'll have a meeting with the white box linux cluster guys to talk through how we can do this better and faster. It shouldn't have taken as long as it did and it shouldn't have required my intervention at all. However, we made it through and everyone worked on it and got the cluster up. They're just fortunate that they don't have as stringent requirements for uptime or system outages that the other folks' systems do.

At least a couple hours of sleep

Ok, so the upgrade is all but done. The whitebox linux cluster caused us the most heartache, but that's taken care of. I'll be crashing for a few hours while I wait for the accounting to get done on the other troublemaker. It is the end of the allocation year (and why we decided to do this now in the first place).

When that's done, I get to make the pronouncement that all's well.

Don't I feel special!

Monday, January 08, 2007


I am still at work helping along the upgrade. My own portion of this was taken care of a while ago. That is to say the stuff for the centerwide filesystem. Since I was asked to take care of overseeing the whole process for all the machines here at work, I am still at work. We have two machines that are still not ready for production. One of which is because the system hit some bugs and worked its way through them. The other...well...version control as never their strong point and now that we are installing a new filesystem...argh! I think I have counted 12 different kernels. I found at least three different versions of the FS. Since we're having to build a different set of personality modules for the FS for each kernel...this is taking fracking forever. Oh did I mention they're not running a standard distribution of Linux EITHER?


So, I am still here and life sucks at the moment. I've been here since 7:30 AM.

In Search of the Maya Sea Traders

As far as a books go, this was one worth reading. However, I have tos ay that I am unfortunately rather disappointed. It wasn't the writing style. Dr McKilop's prose is an easy read and definitely not dry or unengaging: itw as definitely not the bane prose that I call Archaeological Dry. What really disappointed me was the content: this was largely Yet Another Travelogue.

I was hoping for more insight into the Mayan seatrading, but it was lightly sprinkled about her adventures off the coast of Belize. That was interesting, honestly, but again not what I was looking for. Much like my disappointment with Peter Ward's Gorgon I had wanted to hear what the experts had to say about their work more than their adventures. Thoser are interesting and ought to be included, but...I'd rather have some solid discussion of what they found and their theories.

That doesn't happen as much.


On the other hand, it did give me some bits for Epylium Aurelia that will be useful, but only bits.

Permian Weather & Small Ecology Musings

I have a few moments before life goes wonky because of the gpfs upgrade and end of year activities. I thought I'd share a couple thoughts on the Permian. I had a bit of time to ponder stuff while my daughter slept and I needed a small break from reading the books my wife bought for Xmas.

Permian Weather Made the PT Event Worse?

If you look at the Permian World Map that I mentioned before, you will note that it looks like, when you combine with the gobsmacking hot weather, that the place was just made for hurricanes. Assuming that the recent announcements about the hydrogen sulfide findings in the Permian Marine strata hold up, then how much of this was transported inland? How much of the life that we see survive the PT Event was 'upland' critters that would not have been in the path of the nastiness being brought ashore? Then again, If the oxygen levels did indeed drop to the truly low levels that have believed, then land animals would have been forced to move down into the regions that were were doubly vulernable to the H2S poisoning brought on by the rains whether or not they were hurricane intense.

The thought brought me to the idea of whether or not anyone had modeled the Permian weather. I have done some basic searches since I came back, but so far, all I have found is the work that Kiehl et al did at NCAR. That was a climate sim and not as focused on the weather per se. (I could be wrong there, but...) I suspect that the work that we did at SC05 and Mike did above and beyond that could be applied here. What was the weather really like then? Then again, how could we test to see if the model constructed would be even close to accurate? It's something to consider and perhaps take a stab at.

Caste Ecologies the Norm?

I was going to post a bit about the remnants of the Carboniferous that made it up to the Permian End Times and what it might mean or played out had the PT Event not happened. I think it might have some implications for SFnal settings as well. Carlos might have hit upon something bigger than he thought. He stated a while back that the ecologies of the Paleozoic were rather caste like for its members. Certain critter types did certain things. And that broke down only during the Permian.

However, the thought was what-if the ecologies were to develop that way? I mean that what-if it was the norm that the ecologies of a world don't really mix that much. OTL, Our world, post Paleozoic does mix quite a bit. However, what-if the norm is that it doesn't?

Frex, Carboniferous inedible forests in the wet lands and tidal basins; Permian inland; and something else upland? Each not really caring much for the veggies of the other? The idea breaks a bit when it comes to carnivores...hrm. thoughts?

Vacation Report

As I said last night, we're back. We had a good time, but I suspect that I ought to have returned to work sooner. Even so, we did have fun.

At first we didn't go anywhere. I've made it a point that the family will be having a quiet, family Christmas each year. Traditions are important to ingrain for a family early on. It helps to build up a family identity. Avrora got showered with gifts. After a short bit, she even got a handle on the idea it was OK to rip wrapping paper. Lyuda got an iPOD video, an italk (to record her lectures), an electronic (purely english) dictionary and other assorted items. I recieved some very nice sweaters, an Amazon gift card, and some books.

Thent we went back to my aunt's place in North Fork, CA. We went there a couple days after Xmas until New Year's Day. My daughter had a blast playing with the dogs again. Lyuda went ice skating. We went around Yosemite some.

We returned home and immediately jaunted off to Tahoe to ski. Well, Lyuda skied. I babysat, and read, which was ok. She's announced that next year both Avrora and I will be skiing. hm. We had a good time. Lyuda was underwhelmed byt the ski runs, but LOVED the view. She liked Taos' runs from last year much better. we did go on a paddle wheel across the lake though. That was fun.

There will be pictures of the above on Wednesday.

We returned yesterday afternoon. That was my birthday and we had a low key BDay. Lyuda picked up some books: Revelation Space, The Robots of Dawn, Accelerando, and T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. She also made me a cake, some okroshka, and snuggled up big time. I am already plotting on what to do with that Amazon gift card.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

We're Back

We got back a few hours ago. We've been chilling. Or is that warming? We went to Tahoe instead of Colorado. There were a few reasons to have changed. Details later.

I'm also feeling my age. I'm 33 tonight at 11:54 PM.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What Supervillian Am I?

You are Magneto

The Joker
Green Goblin
Dr. Doom
Lex Luthor
Mr. Freeze
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
You fear the persecution of those that are different or underprivileged so much that you are willing to fight and hurt others for your cause.

Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz

Stolen from James again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Natural Disaster I Am

Plague of Locusts

42% unpredictable, 37% area of effect, 46% fast

When you strike, it's random. One farm could be wiped out, the next one left untouched. It's hard to know where you will go next. You linger, devouring every last good thing before you leave the bones behind.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on unpredictable
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on area of effect
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on fast

Link: The Natural Disaster Identity Test written by stpstarbuck on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test