Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hunter's Point Artist Studio Rending


1298 Howard Rendering


800 Indiana Renderings


Sacramento Kings Arena Rendering


Transbay Skyline Rendering


Mid Cambrian Extinction may Have Been Caused by Volcanic Eruptions in Australia

A Curtin University researcher has shown that ancient volcanic eruptions in Australia 510 million years ago significantly affected the climate, causing the first known mass extinction in the history of complex life.

Published in prestigious journal Geology, Curtin's Associate Professor Fred Jourdan, along with colleagues from several Australian and international institutions, used radioactive dating techniques to precisely measure the age of the eruptions of the Kalkarindji volcanic province.

Dr Jourdan and his team were able to prove the volcanic province occurred at the same time as the Early–Middle Cambrian extinction from 510-511 million years ago – the first extinction to wipe out complex multicellular life.

"It has been well-documented that this extinction, which eradicated 50 per cent of species, was related to climatic changes and depletion of oxygen in the oceans, but the exact mechanism causing these changes was not known, until now," Dr Jourdan said.

"Not only were we able to demonstrate that the Kalkarindji volcanic province was emplaced at the exact same time as the Cambrian extinction, but were also able to measure a depletion of sulphur dioxide from the province's volcanic rocks – which indicates sulphur was released into the atmosphere during the eruptions.

"As a modern comparison, when the small volcano Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the resulting discharge of sulphur dioxide decreased the average global temperatures by a few tenths of a degree for a few years following the eruption.

"If relatively small eruptions like Pinatubo can affect the climate just imagine what a volcanic province with an area equivalent to the size of the state of Western Australia can do."

The team then compared the Kalkarindji volcanic province with other volcanic provinces and showed the most likely process for all the mass extinctions was a rapid oscillation of the climate triggered by volcanic eruptions emitting sulphur dioxide, along with greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide.

"We calculated a near perfect chronological correlation between large volcanic province eruptions, climate shifts and mass extinctions over the history of life during the last 550 million years, with only one chance over 20 billion that this correlation is just a coincidence," Dr Jourdan said.

Dr Jourdan said the rapid oscillations of the climate produced by volcanic eruptions made it difficult for various species to adapt, ultimately resulting in their demise. He also stressed the importance of this research to better understand our current environment.

Little Scotlanders Enter Final Stretch

Regulated campaigning for and against Scottish independence began on Friday four months before the referendum, against a backdrop of disputed economic claims.

British finance minister George Osborne said the 300-year-old union between England and Scotland was worth £1,400 (1,720 euros, $2,350) for every Scot, while the bosses of home improvement chain B&Q and drinks firm Diageo warned of the negative impact independence could have on business.

Activists on both sides of the debate have ramped up their rhetoric in recent days with only 16 weeks to go until the historic vote on Sept 18.

Anti Gravity Switched Off for China's Real Estate Market...again

AFTER years of talking up China’s gravity-defying property markets, local land kings are now singing a darker tune. On May 26th Yu Liang, the president of Vanke, China’s biggest developer, declared that the “golden era” in which “everybody makes money out of property is gone.” That came on the heels of comments by Pan Shiyi, the boss of Soho China, another property firm, likening the country’s real-estate sector to the Titanic: “It will soon hit an iceberg.”

Official data show the country’s property market is indeed coming down to earth. During the first four months of this year, the value of residential sales fell by nearly 10% versus a year ago, and construction activity on new homes fell by a quarter. The decline on a month-to-month basis is even more striking.

Friday, May 30, 2014

LBNL Proposing new Laser-Plasma Accelerator

It took every inch of the Large Hadron Collider's 17-mile length to accelerate particles to energies high enough to discover the Higgs boson. Now, imagine an accelerator that could do the same thing in, say, the length of a football field. Or less.

That is the promise of laser-plasma accelerators, which use lasers instead of high-power radio-frequency waves to energize electrons in very short distances. Scientists have grappled with building these devices for two decades, and a new theoretical study predicts that this may be easier than previously thought.

The authors are Carlo Benedetti, Carl Schroeder, Eric Esarey, and Wim Leemans, physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center. Their paper, "Plasma wakefields driven by an incoherent combination of laser pulses: A path towards high-average power laser-plasma accelerators," appears in the May Special Issue of Physics of Plasmas, from AIP Publishing.

If their models prove correct, they could help lower the cost of high-energy physics research -- the Large Hadron Collider cost $9 billion -- as well as many other industrial and medical applications of accelerators.

Laser-plasma accelerators work by blasting a powerful laser beam into a plasma, a cloud of unattached electrons and ions.

"The effect is like the wake of boat speeding down a lake. If the wake was big enough, a surfer could ride it," Leemans, who heads the BELLA Center, explained.

"Imagine that the plasma is the lake and the laser is the motorboat. When the laser plows through the plasma, the pressure created by its photons pushes the electrons out of the way. They wind up surfing the wake, or wakefield, created by the laser as it moves down the accelerator," he said.

The fast moving electrons leave the heavy ions behind. As they separate, they create gigantic electric fields, 100 to 1,000 times larger than those in conventional accelerators.

This is how they accelerate electrons so rapidly. For example, Stanford's Linear Accelerator Center takes two miles to drive an electron to 50 billion electron volts (GeV). Leemans' experimental laser-plasma accelerator takes electrons to more than 1 GeV in slightly more than 1 inch.

It takes a lot of laser power to generate a wakefield. For example, BELLA's petawatt (1 quadrillion watts) laser has a 10 meter x 10 meter footprint. It generates 400 times more power than all the world's power plants combined, though only for 40 femtoseconds (40 quadrillionths of a second).

Unfortunately, it takes BELLA's laser a full second to recharge and send a second pulse. High-energy physics research requires tens of thousands of pulses per second. Many other applications would benefit from multiple pulses per second.

BELLA's laser has the highest repetition rate of any petawatt laser in the world. Building a faster petawatt laser would require a heroic feat of engineering.

Several European researchers have suggested using an array of smaller lasers to produce one enormous pulse. Since less powerful lasers recharge faster, they could produce hundreds or even thousands of pulses per second and sustain a wakefield over many meters.

The hurdle they needed to overcome was how to synchronize hundreds of lasers so they all pulsed within less than a femtosecond of one another.

Such precision would be expensive and presents serious technical problems. But the concept of combining lasers got Leemans' team thinking.

What if the beam was not perfect? What if it were just good enough to rapidly raise the photon pressure on the electrons? Could we get away with it, they wondered.

According to the model presented in Physics of Plasmas, they could. Leemans compares it to pushing a swing.

"Instead of one big push, we would give it many smaller pushes at roughly the same time. It's not quite perfect, but the swing doesn't really care. It averages over all these little pushes and up it goes."

The Objects Beyond Neptune

School Open House 5

Robopocalypse has Come for....TWITTER!

If you have a Twitter account, the chances are that you have fewer than 50 followers and that you follow fewer than 50 people yourself. You probably know many of these people well but there may also be a few on your list who you’ve never met.

So here’s an interesting question: how do you know these Twitter users are real people and not automated accounts, known as bots, that are feeding you links and messages designed to sway your opinions?

You might say that bots are not very sophisticated and so easy to spot. And that Twitter monitors the Twittersphere looking for, and removing, any automated accounts that it finds. Consequently, it is unlikely that you are unknowingly following any automated accounts, malicious or not.

If you hold that opinion, it’s one that you might want to revise following the work of Carlos Freitas at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and a few pals, who have studied how easy it is for socialbots to infiltrate Twitter.

F-35B Will Fly & Hover But Not Land Vertically at Farnborough Air Show

Will the F-35B land vertically at the Royal International Air Tattoo or the Farnborough Air Show? No. Will it hover? Yes.

One of my colleagues had raised the issue that the F-35B will not perform a vertical landing this July, inferring this might be because it would damage the plane or the runway.

F-35 program spokesman Joe DellaVedova told me that the Marine version of the Joint Strike Fighter will perform short takeoffs and landings and perform hovers at both shows. I’m betting you can expect the same at the July 4 christening of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The blast from an F-35B as it lands vertically is pretty fearsome, but the Marines, Navy and program office all say the effects are manageable. I’ve seen the landing spots on the USS Wasp after several days of F-35 testing and spoken unsupervised with crew members. The Wasp deck crew told me they were seeing less damage to the deck than it sustains from some other aircraft that routinely fly from the Wasp and other LHD class ships.

Sedimentation in the Tethys During the Cenomanian Cretaceous

Sedimentation in the Tethyan pelagic realm during the Cenomanian: Monotonous settling or active redistribution?


Gambcorta et al


Sea bottom processes of the pelagic realm are still not completely understood and represent an intriguing subject. This paper focuses on the relationships between “normal” settling processes, redistribution of sediments and oceanographic parameters in a pelagic setting, during the Cenomanian. Five key Tethyian localities in the Cenomanian Umbria-Marche and Belluno Basins have been studied in order to understand the interplay among sea bottom processes that acted on the sea floor. The dataset consists of the mm-scale sedimentological description of the sections complemented by microfacies analysis on selected samples. Different sedimentological indications, such as presence of intraclasts, lined forams, pervasive plane-parallel lamination, suggest a continuos reworking under action of bottom-currents with varying intensity and direction. All the identified facies are here illustrated in detail and organized in a comprehensive schematic facies framework, the “facies matrix”, that leads to recognize two depositional facies suites: the “settling dominated” and the “traction current dominated”, under different oxygenation conditions. Our results suggest that settling of biogenic and inorganic particles represents the main source of pelagic sediments, but not the unique depositional process: under the action of sea-bottom currents of different intensity, sediments are continuously redistributed on the sea floor. All the collected evidences contribute to the proposal of a comprehensive depositional model for these reworked and redistributed fine-grained sediments, that represent true calcareous pelagic contourites. The model suggests that the identified traction-related facies can be used as a proxy for bottom current intensity and, indirectly, as an indicator of changing ventilation regimes at the sea floor through time.

Streaks on Martian Dune Slopes Might be Thin Sheets of Water

Viscous liquid flow on Martian dune slopes




The observed temporary dark streaks on some dune slopes on Mars may be due to thin sheets of water (or some other liquid) trickling downhill. This note corrects conceptual errors in a previous paper (M\"{o}hlmann and Kereszturi 2010, Icarus 207, 654-658) which affect the velocity profile of such flows, and produce over-estimates of their depths and mass fluxes by factors of almost two.

Zircon Dust in Mayan Pottery *NOT* From Tierra Blanca Joven Eruption of lopango Volcano

Volcanic ash provenance from zircon dust with an application to Maya pottery


Coffey et al


When analyzed using secondary ion mass spectrometry, dust-sized (less than 63 μm) zircon in distal ash deposits of the Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ) eruption of Ilopango Volcano (El Salvador) yielded results consistent with ages obtained from those in proximal deposits. This finding indicates insignificant age sorting of zircon crystals during their dispersal in the TBJ ash plume. As a result, analysis of zircons may permit reliable source identification of distal tephra marker beds commonly found in terrestrial and marine environments. This technique was applied to test whether an enigmatic volcanic ash used to manufacture Late Classic Maya pottery from El Pilar is from distal TBJ ash deposits, a hypothesis supported by the location, extent, and timing of the TBJ eruption, and the matching high silica content and trace element ratios between TBJ glass and glass in the archaeological samples. The exclusively older than 1 Ma ages of the archaeological zircons compared with the dominantly ca. 0–30 ka ages of the TBJ zircons, however, rule out the TBJ eruption as the source of the pottery ash. The three analyzed archaeological pottery samples define two distinct zircon age distributions, indicating that the ash in the Maya pottery must be from multiple sources, which currently remain unidentified.

Early Birds Were not Very Ecologically Diverse

Birds come in astounding variety—from hummingbirds to emus—and behave in myriad ways: they soar the skies, swim the waters, and forage the forests. But this wasn't always the case, according to research by scientists at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum.

The researchers found a striking lack of diversity in the earliest known fossil bird fauna (a set of species that lived at about the same time and in the same habitat). "There were no swans, no swallows, no herons, nothing like that. They were pretty much all between a sparrow and a crow," said Jonathan Mitchell, PhD student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, and lead author of the new study, published May 28, 2014, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The scientists examined a group of bird fossils dating back to the Cretaceous period, around 125 million years ago, relatively soon after the emergence of birds. The fossils were collected from an area in China where there was once violent volcanic activity, leading to a plethora of well-preserved fossils as intermittent eruptions periodically killed many birds. The researchers examined the diversity of species in this sample. However, because fossils indicate only the physical characteristics of the birds, understanding the diversity in how the birds behaved required significant scientific legwork.

To tease out the ecological roles played by the prehistoric birds, the researchers used modern-day birds to build a statistical technique that could relate the physical characteristics of a bird to its diet, behavior and habitat. Long legs might be associated with birds that wade through water, for instance, and the shape of the beak might hint at what the bird ate. For this purpose, the scientists painstakingly measured 1,400 modern birds—mostly from the Field Museum's collections—and extracted the correlations between these measurements and the birds' behavior.

Paleozoic Glaciations Caused by Fluctuations in Carbon dioxide

Thresholds for Paleozoic ice sheet initiation


Lowry et al


Continental drift and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have each, in turn, been proposed to explain the evolution of Paleozoic climate from early era ice-free conditions to late era continental-scale glaciation, despite continually increasing solar luminosity. To assess the relative roles of continental configuration and atmospheric pCO2 on the formation of continental-scale ice sheets, we use a coupled ice sheet–climate model to simulate ice sheet initiation at eight different Paleozoic time slices using uniform topography. For each time slice, we simulate the climate at three atmospheric pCO2 levels (560, 840, and 1120 ppm) and both constant (97.5% of modern) and time-appropriate solar luminosity values. Under constant luminosity, our results indicate that continental configurations favor ice sheet initiation in the mid-Paleozoic (400–340 Ma). After accounting for solar brightening, ice sheet initiation is favored in the early Paleozoic (480–370 Ma) simulations. Neither of these results is consistent with geological evidence of continental-scale glaciation. Changes in atmospheric pCO2 can reconcile these differences. Sufficiently high (≥1120 ppm) or low (≤560 ppm) pCO2 overcomes paleogeographic and luminosity predispositions to ice-free or ice age conditions. Based on our simulations and geological evidence of glaciation and atmospheric composition, we conclude that atmospheric pCO2 was the primary control on Paleozoic continental-scale glaciation, while paleogeographic configurations and solar irradiance were of secondary importance.

Evidence of Widespread Aerobic Iodine Cycle in Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic

An iodine record of Paleoproterozoic surface ocean oxygenation


Hardisty et al


Constraining oxygen levels in the early Precambrian surface ocean has been a longstanding goal, but efforts have been challenged by the availability of suitable proxies. Here we present a novel approach, iodine geochemistry, which broadens our perspective by providing constraints on shallow, carbonate-dominated marine settings. Iodate (IO3–) persists exclusively in oxic waters and is the sole iodine species incorporated into carbonate minerals, allowing iodine-to-calcium ratios (I/Ca) in shallow carbonates to be used as a paleoredox indicator. Our data from a series of Mesoarchean through Paleoproterozoic carbonates deposited under shallow-marine conditions reveal a progressive surface ocean oxygenation in the early Paleoproterozoic. These data seem to indicate that a largely anoxic surface ocean extended throughout the Archean until the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) at ca. 2.4 Ga, implying that previous inferences of pre-GOE oxygen production may reflect oxygen oases, transient oxidation events, or oxygen levels below those required for IO3– accumulation. The data suggest formation and persistence of IO3– and, consequently, surface ocean oxygen concentrations of at least 1 μM during the GOE. Following the initial rise of oxygen, carbonate-associated iodine in globally extensive carbonate units deposited during the Lomagundi positive carbon isotope excursion at ca. 2.22–2.1 Ga suggests a widespread aerobic iodine cycle beyond that operating prior to the event, synchronous with high relative rates of organic carbon burial and apparent expansion of oxidative conditions.

Antarctic Ice Sheet Less Stable Than Previously Thought

The first evidence for massive and abrupt iceberg calving in Antarctica, dating back 19,000 to 9,000 years ago, has now been documented by an international team of geologists and climate scientists. Their findings are based on analysis of new, long deep sea sediment cores extracted from the region between the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The study in the May 28, 2014 issue of Nature bears witness to an unstable Antarctic ice sheet that can abruptly reorganize Southern Hemisphere climate and cause rapid global sea level rise.

"One of the iceberg events in our data that is of particular interest took place 14,600 years ago and coincided with a huge ice-sheet melt, the famous Meltwater Pulse 1A, which according to previous studies led to a global sea level rise of about 4 meters within 100 years," says lead author of the study, Michael Weber at the University of Cologne in Germany.

"This is the first direct evidence that instabilities of the Antarctic ice sheet caused rapid sea level rise during the last glacial termination," says co-author Peter Clark, professor at Oregon State University.

Only 43 Million Japanese in 2110?

THE mantra since Shinzo Abe returned to office in 2012 has been about pulling Japan out of its long deflationary spiral. But that is much easier said than done when the population is ageing and shrinking more rapidly than any other.

In May a think-tank predicted that within a little more than three decades some 1,000 rural towns and villages will be largely empty of women of childbearing age. The government forecasts that Japan’s overall population, currently 127m, will shrink by a third over the next 50 years (see chart below). Indeed, it predicts there will be a mere 43m Japanese by 2110. The latter forecast is unscientific extrapolation—no one can possibly know what the country will look like a century from now. Still, the forecast is a measure of the government’s mounting alarm, and it is hard to square with the prime minister’s notions of returning Japan to national greatness. In short, demography is once again coming to the fore as a hot political issue.

"In the WT* Are They Thinking" Category: Kazakhstan to Test & Evaluate General Atomics Predator XP Drone

Kazakhstan has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer General Atomics, paving the way for in-country evaluation of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Predator XP.

A General Atomics spokesperson told IHS Jane's on 27 May that General Atomics Systems Integration, a subsidiary responsible for defence and aerospace services, had signed the MoU with Kazakhstan's state-owned defence industrial firm Kazakhstan Engineering (KE) to allow the firm to lease the Predator XP for testing and evaluation in Kazakhstan.

A timetable for the testing and evaluation period was not available.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ukraine: Swirling of Patterns

The clashes in the east intensified.  Today a helicopter was shot down and 14 to 16 soldiers died.  Inclusive was an Ukrainian general.  It was downed by a MANPADS.

There were other clashes between the LGM and Ukrainians. The largest was near Lugansk at Oleksandrivsk.  The LGM apparently destroyed supply depots of equipment before being beaten back.

Interestingly, in Donetsk especially, the different factions of the LGM are turning on one another.  One group attacked another and after a brief battle captured and still holds the survivors.

There are reports of some LGM attempting to cross back into Russia.  Those are dwarfed by the much largest numbers coming across into Ukraine: last count over 50 large trucks worth, potentially up to 2000.

Latest report is the Russians really are pulling back from the border.  

Poroshenko will be inaugurated on June 7th.

BRAIN Project Proposals are Getting a Reality Check

Neuroscientists were over the moon in April 2013 when President Barack Obama announced a bold new initiative to study the human brain in action. But in their heady excitement, some may have forgotten to check the math in their first proposals. At least, that's the contention of a group of physicists, engineers, and neuroscientists meeting this week in Arlington, Virginia, to discuss which ideas are likely to succeed and which may fall flat.

Key to the success of the roughly $100 million Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is crafting new tools or methods to measure neural activity either from inside or outside the brain. Unfortunately, some ideas “violated either a physical law or some very significant engineering constraint or biological constraint,” says neurophysicist Partha Mitra of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, who helped organize the meeting, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

The goal is to have a realistic discussion of what the physical limits are, he says, so “scientists who want to make devices will not make crazy proposals,” or, “if a proposal is crazy, one could recognize it as such” and look for other ways to make the idea work.

One such “fanciful” idea is to build nanosized radios that could snuggle up to individual neurons to record and transmit information about their activity, says physicist Peter Littlewood, director of Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. But any radio small enough to be injected into the brain without causing significant harm would not be able to transmit any information out through tissue and bone, he says. Make the devices any more powerful, he adds, and they'd likely cook the surrounding brain. Another aspiration that is likely doomed is to get microscopes that probe the brain with pulses of light to penetrate much further than they already do, Mitra says. A little more than 1 mm is possible, he adds, but even 1 cm is “out of the question, since the signal to background [noise] ratio decreases exponentially with depth.”

But physicists and engineers shouldn't simply shoot down outlandish proposals—or gripe about the intrinsic messiness of the brain's biology. They should model themselves as “fancy technicians” who can help develop revolutionary tools, Littlewood says. There are precedents for such collaboration, he notes: He, Mitra, and their colleagues at Bell Labs, for example, helped develop functional magnetic resonance imaging in the 1990s.

How an MIT Professor is Seeking to end Physical Disabilities Through the Robopocalypse

Hugh Herr is a living exemplar of the maxim that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. At the age of 17, Herr was already an accomplished mountaineer, but during an ice-climbing expedition he lost his way in a blizzard and was stranded on a mountainside for three days. By the time rescuers found him, both of his legs were doomed by frostbite and had to be amputated below the knee. Once his scars healed, Herr spent months in rehab rooms trying out prosthetic legs, but he found them unacceptable: How could he climb with such clunky things? Surely, he thought, medical technologists could build replacement parts that wouldn’t slow him down.

Today, three decades after his accident, Herr walks on bionic limbs of his own creation. As director of the biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab, Herr developed advanced prosthetics that he uses to walk, run, and even rock climb. And now, as he works with his colleagues to establish MIT’s new Center for Extreme Bionics, Herr is setting out not just to reinvent himself but the whole of society. “Fifty years out, I think we will have largely eliminated disability,” he declares, adding that he’s referring not just to physical disabilities but to many emotional and intellectual infirmities as well.

Herr believes the solutions lie not in biological or pharmacological cures but in novel electromechanical additions to our bodies. He gestures to his own artificial limbs to make the point. “My legs weren’t grown back; I wasn’t given a total limb transplant,” he notes. “If you eliminate the synthetics, all I can do is crawl. But with them,” he says with a slow smile, “I can more or less do anything.”

The MIT scientists are part of a movement aimed at ushering medicine into a cyborg age.

School Open House 4

OshKosh's TerraMax Technology has Been Made Into a Module for Any Modern Military Vehicle

The future of military robotics may not look much like a robot. It may just be a truck that drives itself. That’s the simple, pragmatic approach pursued by Oshkosh — a company better known for trucks than Terminators — with its TerraMax Unmanned Ground Vehicle. But after eight years of experiments for three different military agencies, TerraMax can only get somewhere in the real world by proving its technology can adapt to many missions and many types of vehicles.

Now the company has made a major step towards that goal. After years of experimenting exclusively with cargo vehicles, it’s installed TerraMax on the M-ATV armored truck and equipped it to clear mines. With roadside bombs (known in the military as IEDs) certain to remain a major threat in future conflicts, and the M-ATV to remain in service long after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, that’s a much more compelling combination of platform and mission. What’s more, Oshkosh is moving to a more open architecture for the TerraMax software to make it easier to adapt to different platforms in the future.

“You really do design these kits so they’re relatively easy to install on any vehicle, especially modern vehicles where you have a digital connection” to the engine and controls, said John Beck, who runs the TerraMax program. In this case, he told me, they’re “applying the TerraMax UGV kit to an M-ATV with a mine roller on the front [for] the route-clearance mission.” (Oshkohsh’s M-ATV is the lighter, nimbler, Afghanistan-optimized “all terrain vehicle” cousin of the lumbering MRAP machines — “Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected” — first made famous in Iraq). In the future, Oshkosh wants to add ground-penetrating radar to help detect buried IEDs.

Alpha Version of US Army TALOS Powered Armor Within a Month, Full Suit by August 2018

The United States military could soon have its very own Iron Man suit. The prototype is set to debut within weeks. The suit is a robotic exoskeleton designed to enhance human abilities in battle. Time will tell how well it compares to Tony Stark’s superhero suit, but the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is being devised to assist its wearer in lifting heavy loads, protect them from bullets and provide the lucky soldier with information concerning their environment using sensors, cameras and advanced displays. TALOS will have bulletproof armor, 360-degree cameras with built-in night vision capabilities, sensors that can detect injuries and apply wound-sealing foam.

The prototype of TALOS will be ready for release very soon but the more complete version will not be ready for a few years. According to Battelle, a science and technology research institute out of Columbus, it is expected to be ready for actual battle between 2016 and 2018.

In Greek mythology Talos was a giant man, or according to others maybe a bull, made of bronze that guarded the island of Crete. This giant was given the task of patrolling the island by walking around three times a day. Talos would drive pirates from the shore with a fiery death embrace or by throwing rocks.

TALOS is being developed by engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the United States Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), as well as other researchers at other academic institutions and businesses. The suit’s technology will be rigorously tested. According to William McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command, military personnel hopes to have operational systems join in battle no later than August 2018. If the suit is done correctly it will produce a revolutionary improvement in capability and survivability for special operations.

Paleoenvironment in the Cretaceous on the Manihiki Plateau

Organic matter provenance and paleoenvironment in the Cretaceous on the Manihiki Plateau, South Pacific


Simoneit et al


Three holes at site 317 on the High Manihiki Plateau were drilled in 1973 as part of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP). This plateau is of special interest because of its organic-rich shale formation during its early history, potentially linking paleo-depositional conditions and water depth or land exposure. A multi-tracer approach was used to analyze target organic-rich layers of Hole 317A core 16, Sections 2 and 3 from the early Cretaceous. This included bulk elemental and stable carbon isotope compositions of specific chemical classes (lipids, humic acids, kerogen), as well as individual biomarkers separated by thin layer chromatography and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The major natural product contributions found in the core sediments were derived from three primary sources: algal (low molecular weight (less than C20) n-alkanoic acids, n-alkanols and n-alkanes), bacterial (2-hydroxyalkanoic acids and hopanoids), and terrestrial (high molecular weight (greater than C22) aliphatic lipids, phytosterols, diterpenoids). Algal- and bacterial-derived compounds were observed at the shallowest layers of the core sample (680.30 m below sea floor), and decreased with increasing core depth. Terrestrial inputs increased down core and peaked between 680.33 and 680.70 m below sea floor. This trend coincides with a thick sapropel layer and agrees with the Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE) in the early Cretaceous, indicating deposition in a shallow water environment in proximity to land (e.g., atoll).

Using Low Velocity Penetrometers to Understand Planetary Regolith

Determining the geotechnical properties of planetary regolith using low velocity Penetrometers


Seweryn et al


Measurements of mechanical and thermophysical properties of planetary surface allow determining many important parameters useful for planetologists. For example, effective heat conductivity or thermal inertia of the regolith can help to better understand the processes occurring in the bodies interior. Chemical and mineralogical composition gives us a chance to determine the origin and evolution of moons and satellites. Mechanical properties of the surface are one of the key factors needed by civil engineers for developing future bases on space bodies.

Space missions to planetary bodies highly restrict the payload concerning its mass and power consumption. Therefore, it is quite impossible to use a standard terrestrial technique like the Load Plate Test or Direct Shear Tests to determine the geotechnical parameters of the planetary regolith. Even the Dynamic Cone Penetration (DCP) method, which is frequently used for field testing, does not fit well with the constraints imposed by a space mission. Nevertheless, its operation principle is very similar to that of at the Low Velocity Penetrators (LVP), several of them being currently on their way to planetary bodies (e.g., the MUPUS instrument) or which were developed in the last couple of years (e.g. the, CHOMIK instrument or the KRET device).

In this paper we present a comparison between DCP method and LVP operation which were observed during several tests campaigns during mole KRET and CHOMIK instrument development. The tests were performed in different planetary analogues: JSC-1A, Chenobi and AGK-2010, Phobos analogue, cometary analogues F1, F2 and F3 (SRC) and dry quartz sand. In the last part of the paper the concept of results' interpretation is presented.

Slash and Burn Agricultural Fires in Congo

It is currently the dry season in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image on May 24, 2014. MODIS detected hundreds of active fires (location marked in red) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northeastern Angola, a sign that the agricultural burning season is underway.

Agriculture is responsible for more than half of the products produced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and fire is a central feature in agriculture across most of Africa. Places where traditional plots of open land are not available because the vegetation in the area is dense are the places where "slash and burn" agriculture is practiced most often. These regions include parts of Africa, northern South America, and Southeast Asia, where an abundance of grasslands and rainforests are found. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. Fire is also used to drive game and grazing animals to new locations and to stimulate new growth in pastures. This annual burning has taken place for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and it is not necessarily immediately hazardous. But it can have a strong influence on air quality and public health, as well as on climate and natural resources.

A Valanginian/Hauterivian Cretaceous Ichthyosaur Graveyard From Chile

A Lower Cretaceous ichthyosaur graveyard in deep marine slope channel deposits at Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chile


Stinnesbeck et al


Remnants of ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaurs recently discovered in the vicinity of the Tyndall Glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park of southern Chile are extremely abundant and well preserved. After three field campaigns to the area, a total of 46 articulated and virtually complete ichthyosaur specimens, both adults and juveniles, were tentatively assigned to four different species of Ophthalmosauridae. Preservation is excellent and occasionally includes soft tissue and embryos. The skeletons are associated with ammonites, belemnites, inoceramid bivalves, and fishes as well as numerous plant remains. The enormous concentration of ichthyosaurs is unique for Chile and South America and places the Tyndall locality among the prime fossil Lagerstätten for Early Cretaceous marine reptiles worldwide.

The deposit is Early Cretaceous (Valanginian–Hauterivian) in age and forms part of a monotonous bathyal to abyssal sequence of the Late Jurassic to late Early Cretaceous Rocas Verdes back-arc basin. In this region, the Tyndall ichthyosaur population may have profited from cold upwelling currents that caused abundant life at the shelf edge including masses of belemnites and small fish, the preferred diet of ichthyosaurs. The abundance of almost completely articulated ichthyosaur skeletons in the Tyndall area suggests that some animals fell victim to episodic mass-mortality events caused by turbidity currents traveling downslope through a submarine canyon. They lost orientation, drowned, and were dragged into the deep sea by these turbulent high-energy gravity flows. Their bodies ended up in an oxygen-deficient basin environment where they were immediately embedded by the fine turbidite suspension fallout. The Tyndall ichthyosaur locality thus combines characteristics of both concentration and conservation Lagerstätten.

Icehouse to Greenhouse Paleoclimate Signals in Permian South African Palynological Records

Palynological records of the Permian Ecca Group (South Africa): Utilizing climatic icehouse-greenhouse signals for cross basin correlations


Ruckwied et al


The Permian formations of the South African Karoo Basin play a crucial role in understanding Gondwana's climate history during this time of major global changes. In this paper we present two data sets, one from the coal-bearing Vryheid Formation (Witbank Basin) and one from the Whitehill and Upper Prince Albert formations of the DP 1/78 core (NE Karoo).

Main goal was to study the vegetation changes during this period of global warming and test if the climatic signals could be used to correlate the basinal Ecca group facies with the fluvio-deltaic coal-bearing strata of the Witbank Basin. The palynological record of the No. 2 Coal Seam of the Vryheid Formation indicates a cold climate, fern wetland community, characteristic of lowland alluvial plains, and an upland conifer community in the lower part of the coal seam. Up section, these communities are replaced by a cool-temperate cycad-like lowland vegetation and gymnospermous upland flora. The data set of the DP 1/78 core is interpreted to represent a cool to warm temperate climate represented by a high amount of Gangamopteris and Glossopteris elements.

Both data sets are very different in their composition, which can be explained by the differences in depositional environment, however our findings reveal a different age of the studied assemblages and thus also suggest that both data sets represent different stages in the transition from icehouse to greenhouse during Permian times. As the stratigraphic correlation between the Main Karroo Basin and the peripheral basins is still under discussion, this paper provides new data to underpin the stratigraphic placement of the Whitehill Formation relative to the coal-bearing Vryheid Formation.

Carbon Isotope Ratios Across Cambrian/Ordovician Boundary

High-resolution chemostratigraphy of the Cambrian-Ordovician GSSP: Enhanced global correlation tool


Azmy et al


The Green Point Formation of the Cow Head Group in western Newfoundland (Canada) represents the Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the Cambrian–Ordovician boundary on Laurentia. The formation consists of the Martin Point (lower) and the Broom Point (upper) members, which constitute a thick (~ 170 m) deep subtidal to slope marine carbonate sequence. Preservation of the micritic carbonates of the Green Point Formation was evaluated by multiple petrographic and geochemical screening tools. The δ13C and δ18O values of near-primary micrites range from − 4.7 ‰ to + 1.7‰ (VPDB) and from − 8.7 ‰ to − 5.5 ‰ (VPDB), respectively, with no significant correlation (R2 = 0.002). Similarly, the δ13C values show no significant correlation with Mn/Sr ratios or total REE contents, which suggest that the investigated carbonates retain their near-primary δ13C signatures that can be utilized to construct a high-resolution carbon-isotope profile for the GSSP. The δ13Ccarb profile about the GSSP trends generally positive into Bed 22 of the Green Point Formation. The top of the C. intermedius Zone marks the onset of a negative δ13Ccarb shift to about 6.0 ‰ culminating in the upper part of the zone. Subsequently, the δ13Ccarb profile trends positive with a ‘double switch-back’ about the boundary point and then continues on to the highest value in the uppermost part of Bed 23. In addition, the Ce*/Ce values approximately between 0.8 and 1.0, through the GSSP suggest generally dysoxic waters before, during, and immediately after the boundary. The high-resolution chemostratigraphic results, curve, and trends covering the GSSP should facilitate correlation of the Cambrian–Ordovician boundary sections/sequences from other locations.

Carbon Trading in China

China has made progress in its carbon trading pilot programs but still has a long way to go, government officials and industry players believe.

China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is betting on carbon trading as a key measure to cut its emissions for each unit of economic output 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Already, five regional carbon markets have been up and running in the Guangdong province and cities of Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin since 2013. Central China's Hubei province last month also kicked in its cap-and-trade system.

The city of Chongqing now is the last Chinese pilot region that needs to launch carbon trading.

At a climate finance forum hosted by the International Finance Corp. last week in Beijing, Xu Huaqing, deputy director general of China's National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said that carbon credits sold in the existing Chinese carbon markets already surpassed 100 million yuan ($16 million) as of early May.

Xu said that higher trading activities are expected to emerge in coming weeks because regulated emitters are approaching their deadline of reporting annual emissions and therefore have stronger incentives to trade carbon allowances.

Carbon trading, China's version of a U.S. national cap-and-trade scheme that Congress failed to pass in 2009, is designed to evolve into a system that puts a price on greenhouse gases. It will spur clean energy investments and more energy-efficient technologies by doing so, and right now, carbon dioxide—the main man-made greenhouse gas warming the atmosphere—is the only type of greenhouse gas capped in the Chinese program.

Policymakers here limit the amounts of carbon dioxide companies can emit with a system of allowances. Companies that emit beyond the limit are required to buy more carbon allowances to cover those emissions. Those that become more efficient can sell allowances they no longer need to help finance their improvements.

In addition to its seven regionwide carbon trading pilots, China plans to include more cities and provinces in the scheme by the end of the decade. "We are considering expanding the existing pilot programs into surrounding areas and link up those regional carbon markets; if that fails, the central government will then design a nationwide emissions trading scheme and allocate allowances to each region," said Xu, the government official involved in the national carbon market buildup.

MERS Infections Slow in Saudi Arabia, Iran Reports First Infections

The rate of infection of a deadly virus in Saudi Arabia has slowed since mid May and Monday was the first day free of new cases in six weeks, figures released by the kingdom's Health Ministry showed.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was discovered in Saudi Arabia two years ago and has since infected 562 people in the kingdom, killing 179 of them. It can cause flu-like symptoms, pneumonia and organ failure in some.

A surge in new cases in April prompted King Abdullah to sack the health minister and led to criticism of infection control procedures in many Saudi hospitals. There were also concerns the government was not taking seriously MERS's link to camels.

Cases have also been discovered in other countries, including the United States, Britain and France and, most recently, in Iran. Most of these cases are linked to people who have recently visited Gulf Arab countries.

In the first two weeks of the month, the daily number of new cases in Saudi Arabia averaged nearly 11, but since May 14 the average number of new confirmed infections has been a little over four a day, the figures show.

Late on Monday the ministry reported its first day free of new confirmed infections since April 13.

Iran also reports cases.

Russia's Economy at a Crossroads

A panel at an annual economic forum here was deeply divided over the direction of the Russian economy. The isolationists in the group favored relying on state banks for its financing needs. Others called for Russia to deepen its ties with China, while a different contingent said global trade and commerce remain critical.

A question projected on a wall loomed large in the debate: “What is to be done?”

On the verge of recession, Russia stands at a critical crossroads.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ukraine: Patterns Strengthened

In the East, the Ukrainian army and security services have made significant progress.  They have started capturing important LGM personnel in Kramatorsk and pushed into Donetsk itself.  

Concerning though are the reports the border guards are basically besieged on the Russian border by groups of armed men passing into the country.  It might be this is an exaggeration or only localized rather than commonplace across the entire eastern border. 

The LGM have, in some cases, started sporting Russian military insignia. 

The LGM seem to be turning on the local populace even more than before.  Mortars and heavy machine guns have been reported opening fire on residential areas in Slavyansk and Donetsk. 

There was a report, which I think I missed reporting, that Ukrainian troops opened fire (a few days ago) on Russian helicopters which were probing from Crimea.  The shots were only in warning.

Unconfirmed also is the account of the Ukrainians having shot down a Russian drone.  There are some wild rumors about this UAV which I won't reproduce.  If true, at least that it was a Russian drone, that additionally complicates matters.  If the wild rumors are true...o.O  I have significant doubts though.

It appears Putin is pulling back some troops.  Albeit slowly.  My craaaazy thought which is almost 99.999% certainly wrong is Putin may have less control over his military than we'd like to think.  Perhaps he did, goes the nasty little voice in my head, order the troops back weeks ago.  And they did not follow it.  Its an extremely frightening thought and completely wrong.  I hope.

Look Ma! No Steering Wheel! The Robopocalypse Gets Cute With Google's Latest Self Driving Car

You can read more here, here and (for past info) here.

I, personally, would love to have a single, electric self-driving car which I could tuck my daughter into to send her off to school in and have it pick her up.  It would seriously and significantly help me with the day as I 'superdad.'  My son is too young to drop off at daycare like that, but in a year or so it might work.  Others do not feel this is a good idea though.

On the other hand, this would be beyond awesome for getting to the airport: get up, hop in and have it drop me off...and then pick me up....and have it return home.  No need to wake everyone up for a red eye trip.

As this technology goes onto the roads and is proven safe, its going to devastate the taxi and trucking industries. 

School Open House 3

General Dynamics Drops out of US Army's Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Procurement

“And then there was one.” General Dynamics said today it will not bid for the Army’s largest combat vehicle program, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Nor will GD take the government to court to try to change the terms of the competition, despite having denounced them as intolerably tilted towards competitor BAE Systems and protested, unsuccessfully, to the Army. With bids due today, this double withdrawal on both the business and legal fronts leaves BAE unchallenged.

Congress could potentially intervene, although so far it’s taken mostly symbolic action; the Army could theoretically have a last minute change of heart, though that’s surpassingly unlikely; or AMPV could ultimately get cancelled altogether, which is all too plausible given the budget cuts known as sequestration and the Army’s track record of cancelled programs. But the odds now are that the service’s thousands of aging, vulnerable M113s will be replaced in a range of support roles, from troop carrier to armored ambulance to mobile command post, by a turretless variant of BAE’s Bradley, already the Army’s mainstay combat vehicle.

Australia may Procure F-35B VSTOL Variant for Canberra-class Amphibious Ships

Australia will consider buying the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in addition to the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant to which it has already committed, a spokesman for Defence Minister David Johnston confirmed on 26 May.

The spokesman told IHS Jane's that acquisition of the F-35B "would be considered within the construct of the Defence White Paper", which is due in the second quarter of 2015.

The spokesman was responding to media reports that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has instructed planners working on the White Paper to examine the possibility of buying F-35Bs to operate from the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) two Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious ships.

The first of the two 27,800-tonne LHDs is currently undergoing delivery trials. The second will be commissioned in 2016.

The government announced on 23 April its decision to acquire a further 58 F-35As to take Australia's total commitment to 72. The first two will be delivered later this year, although they and subsequent deliveries will not arrive in Australia until late in 2018.

It is unclear whether any F-35B acquisition would be in addition to the 72 CTOL variants or be subtracted from that number.

Paleoenvironmental Analysis of the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway in Colorado

Integrated paleoenvironmental analysis of the Niobrara Formation: Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, northern Colorado


Da Gama et al


This study presents a regional chronostratigraphic framework and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Niobrara Formation in northern Colorado based upon multidisciplinary biostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic data. A local biostratigraphic zonation is described for the Coniacian to earliest Campanian of this region of the Western Interior Seaway based primarily upon the distribution of calcareous nannofossils. Three key paleoenvironmental packages are also identified and linked to the evolution of regional sedimentary facies.

During the Early to Late Coniacian, Tethyan water masses interacted with Boreal surface currents to produce regional upwelling along tectonically-controlled bathymetric highs. A well mixed, relatively well oxygenated water column with warm surface water temperatures and high fertility sustained a rich microflora/fauna and promoted higher carbonate production.

Enhanced fluvial input and a weakening of Tethyan influence during the Early Santonian marks the onset of a regional environmental shift. This period of transition extends through the Middle Santonian and is characterized by pulses of transported material and relatively frequent turnover of faunal associations. Increased terrigenous runoff likely produced eutrophic surface waters and intensified water column stratification, leading to a general deterioration of the bottom water environment in a progressively dysoxic setting.

Continued strengthening of fluvial input during the Late Santonian to Early Campanian resulted in surface water freshening and sustained primary productivity. This surface water environment—in conjunction with stifled vertical mixing—promoted the development of a stagnant and intensely stratified water column. The basin was therefore severely dysoxic (possibly anoxic) and corrosive with chemically reducing bottom waters and an expanded oxygen minimum zone, thereby limiting biotic development and causing the deposition of finely laminated, mid rich (carbonate poor) sediments.

How Much Interplanetary Dust Impacted on Japan's Ikaros Solar Sail Demonstrator?

Microparticle impact calibration of the Arrayed Large-Area Dust Detectors in INterplanetary space (ALADDIN) onboard the solar power sail demonstrator IKAROS


Hirai et al


The Arrayed Large-Area Dust Detectors in INterplanetary space (ALADDIN) is an array of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) based dust detectors aboard the solar power sail demonstrator named IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun). The total sensor area of ALADDIN (0.54 m2) is the world's largest among the past PVDF-based dust detectors. IKAROS was launched in May 2010 and then ALADDIN measured cosmic dust impacts for 16 months while orbiting around between 0.7 and 1.1 AU. The main scientific objective of ALADDIN is to reveal number density of ≥10-μm-sized≥10-μm-sized dust in the zodiacal cloud with much higher time-space resolution than that achieved by any past in-situ measurements. The distribution of ≥10-μm-sized≥10-μm-sized dust can be also observed mainly with the light scattering by optical instruments. This paper gives the scientific objectives, the instrumental description, and the results of microparticle impact calibration of ALADDIN conducted in ground laboratories. For the calibration tests we used Van de Graaf accelerators (VdG), two-stage light gas guns (LGG), and a nano-second pulsed Nd:YAG laser (nsPL). Through these experiments, we obtained depolarization charge signal caused by hypervelocity impacts or laser irradiation using the flight spare of 20-μm-thick20-μm-thick PVDF sensor and the electronics box of ALADDIN. In the VdG experiment we accelerated iron, carbon, and silver microparticles at 1–30 km/s, while in the LGG experiment we performed to shoot 100's-μm-sized100's-μm-sized particles of soda-lime glass and stainless steel at 3–7 km/s as single projectile. For interpolation to ≥10-μm≥10-μm size, we irradiated infrared laser at the energy of 15–20 mJ directly onto the PVDF sensor. From the signal analysis, we developed a calibration law for estimation of masses of impacted dust particles. The dynamic range of ALADDIN corresponds from 9×10−14 kg to 2×10−10 kg (View the MathML source4−56μm in diameter at density of 2.0 g/cm3) at the expected impact velocity of 10 km/s at 1 AU on the IKAROS inbound orbit. It was found that ALADDIN has ability to measure spatial densities of interplanetary dust particles larger than View the MathML source10μm in size by setting the sensor threshold to an output voltage of 1 V.

Miocene Neogene Apes Dietary Specialization Allowed Spread Into Eurasia, led to Extinction

Newly analyzed tooth samples from the great apes of the Miocene indicate that the same dietary specialization that allowed the apes to move from Africa to Eurasia may have led to their extinction, according to results published May 21, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Daniel DeMiguel from the Institut Catalá de Palontologia Miquel Crusafont (Spain) and colleagues.

Apes expanded into Eurasia from Africa during the Miocene (14 to 7 million years ago) and evolved to survive in new habitat. Their diet closely relates to the environment in which they live and each type of diet wears the teeth differently. To better understand the apes' diet during their evolution and expansion into new habitat, scientists analyzed newly-discovered wearing in the teeth of 15 upper and lower molars belonging to apes from five extinct taxa found in Spain from the mid- to late-Miocene (which overall comprise a time span between 12.3󈝸.2 and 9.7 Ma). They combined these analyses with previously collected data for other Western Eurasian apes, categorizing the wear on the teeth into one of three ape diets: hard-object feeders (e.g., hard fruits, seeds), mixed food feeders (e.g. fruit), and leaf feeders.

Previous data collected elsewhere in Europe and Turkey suggested that the great ape's diet evolved from hard-shelled fruits and seeds to leaves, but these findings only contained samples from the early-Middle and Late Miocene, while lack data from the epoch of highest diversity of hominoids in Western Europe.

In their research, the scientists found that in contrast with the diet of hard-shelled fruits and seeds at the beginning of the movement of great apes to Eurasia, soft and mixed fruit-eating coexisted with hard-object feeding in the Late Miocene, and a diet specializing in leaves did not evolve. The authors suggest that a progressive dietary diversification may have occurred due to competition and changes in the environment, but that this specialization may have ultimately lead to their extinction when more drastic environmental changes took place.

Mercuriceratops: A New Chasmosaurine Ceratopsid From Campanian Cretaceous North America

A new chasmosaurine from northern Laramidia expands frill disparity in ceratopsid dinosaurs


Ryan et al


A new taxon of chasmosaurine ceratopsid demonstrates unexpected disparity in parietosquamosal frill shape among ceratopsid dinosaurs early in their evolutionary radiation. The new taxon is described based on two apomorphic squamosals collected from approximately time equivalent (approximately 77 million years old) sections of the upper Judith River Formation, Montana, and the lower Dinosaur Park Formation of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. It is referred to Chasmosaurinae based on the inferred elongate morphology. The typical chasmosaurine squamosal forms an obtuse triangle in dorsal view that tapers towards the posterolateral corner of the frill. In the dorsal view of the new taxon, the lateral margin of the squamosal is hatchet-shaped with the posterior portion modified into a constricted narrow bar that would have supported the lateral margin of a robust parietal. The new taxon represents the oldest chasmosaurine from Canada, and the first pre-Maastrichtian ceratopsid to have been collected on both sides of the Canada–US border, with a minimum north–south range of 380 km. This squamosal morphology would have given the frill of the new taxon a unique dorsal profile that represents evolutionary experimentation in frill signalling near the origin of chasmosaurine ceratopsids and reinforces biogeographic differences between northern and southern faunal provinces in the Campanian of North America.

Not Below 15%: Evidence of Wild Fires in Anisian & Ladinian Triassic Dolomites, Italy

Wildfires in the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic of the Southern Alps—the Anisian and Ladinian (Mid Triassic) of the Dolomites (Northern Italy)


Uhl et al


Based on anatomical studies of fossil charcoal fragments the first evidence for palaeo-wildfires is presented for the Anisian and Ladinian of the Dolomites (Northern Italy). These charcoals are from the localities Kühwiesenkopf/Monte Prà della Vacca (middle-upper Pelsonian, upper Anisian) and Ritberg/Ju Rit (Longobardian, upper Ladinian), and they help to fill a gap in our current scientific knowledge on the fossil record of Triassic wildfires worldwide. Charcoal reflectance values from Kühwiesenkopf are surprisingly high, indicating a palaeo-wildfire temperature of approximately 650 °C.

South China Block's Location in Tonian NeoProterozoic Supercontinent Rodinia

Early Neoproterozoic accretionary assemblage in the Cathaysia Block: Geochronological, Lu-Hf isotopic and geochemical evidence from granitoid gneisses


Wang et al


The South China Block (SCB) is composed of the Yangtze Block in the northwest and the Cathysia Block in the southeast. The earliest Neoproterozoic granitic rocks in the SCB are important for our understanding of the tectonic regime and location of this ancient continent in relation to the Rodinia supercontinent. However, such rocks have rarely been reported for the Cathaysia Block so far. In this study, six granitic gneisses from the Wuyi-Yunkai domain gave zircon U-Pb ages of 985-913 Ma, indicating the presence of the early Neoproterozoic granitic magmatism in the Cathaysia interior. These granitic gneisses are peraluminous with high FeOt, MgO, TiO2 and CaO/Na2O but low SiO2, Al2O3/TiO2, Al2O3/(MgO + FeOt) and Rb/Sr ratios. They show steep REE chondrite -normalized patterns with δEu values of 0.35-0.70. These samples have strongly negative Ba, Sr, Nb-Ta, P and Ti anomalies in primitive mantle-normalized diagrams, and ɛNd(t) values of -9.54 to -3.81, similar to those of the Kwangsian granitic rocks and Precambrian volcanosedimentary package in the Cathysia Block. The zircon grains with the earliest Neoproterozoic age gave ɛHf(t) values of -9.64∼ +2.78 with the peak values at -2.5 and -7.5, and Hf model ages of 1.35-2.00 Ga with the two-peaks of 1.57 Ga and 1.75 Ga, respectively. These data suggest that the granitic gneisses originated dominantly from a binary mixing of metapelitic and metaigneous components, with insignificant input of juvenile materials. We consider that these rocks are closely related to the closure of the earliest Neoproterozoic (∼980 Ma) Wuyi-Yunkai back-arc basin in an accretionary continental margin setting. In combination with other data, it is proposed that the previously-defined Cathaysia block might consist of various sub-blocks separated by the arc-back-arc basin prior to the early Neoproterozoic period. The Wuyi-Yunkai arc-back-arc system was finally closed at ∼920 Ma, significantly younger than the classical Grenvillian Orogenic event, and thus the SCB was located on the margin of the Rodinia supercontinent.

Deserts are Major Drivers in the Carbon Cycle

Dryland ecosystems, which include deserts to dry-shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought. In fact, they have emerged as one of its drivers, says Montana State University faculty member Ben Poulter.

Surprised by the discovery, Poulter and his collaborators explained their findings in Nature. At the same time, they urged global ecologists to include the emerging role of dryland ecosystems in their research. Nature is a weekly international journal that publishes peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology.

"Our study found that natural events in Australia were largely responsible for this anomaly," Poulter said. "La Nina-driven rainfall during 2010 and 2011, as well as the 30-year greening up of its deserts and other drylands contributed to significant changes across the globe."

Poulter, who has a dual appointment in MSU's Department of Ecology and the Institute on Ecosystems, came to MSU in January. Before that, he worked in France at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Envionnement (LSCE) where he contributed to compiling information for the Global Carbon Project's annual global carbon budget assessment.

He realized during that process that the world's land carbon sink in 2011 seemed to be absorbing an unusually large amount of carbon, Poulter said. Carbon dioxide moves constantly between land, oceans, vegetation and the atmosphere. When one of those absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases, it's referred to as a carbon sink.

Poulter and his collaborators investigated the phenomena with a variety of data sets and modeling approaches. They eventually discovered surprising interactions between climate extremes and desert greening that increased in importance over the past 30 years. Further study showed that the dryland systems in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically Australia, had particularly high productivity in response to increased La Nina-phase rainfall.

"What surprised us was that no analogous biosphere response to similar climatic extremes existed in the past 30 years, prompting us to explore whether documented dryland-greening trends were responsible for changes in the carbon cycle dynamics," said Philippe Ciais, co-author and senior scientist at LSCE.

The authors discovered that an increase in the precipitation sensitivity of a range of ecosystems processes occurred between the periods of 1982-1996 and 1997-2011. One of those processes was the greening of desert vegetation. Together those processes led to a four-fold increase in net carbon uptake to precipitation over the past 30 years.

"Novel responses of the biosphere have been predicted to occur following human activities that have caused unprecedented changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, climate and land cover," Poulter continued. "Our study provides new evidence that interactions among these human activities are now also impacting dryland biomes. These findings have global implications that should be considered in monitoring networks and earth system models."

The large 2011 land carbon uptake is not expected to lead to long-term increases in ecosystem carbon accumulation, according to the researchers.

Foreign Policy's Opinion of Modi's Foreign Policy Positions

In short, Modi is likely to be a net negative for the West. But unless he picks a fight with Pakistan, that won't matter nearly as much as whether he can address India's sense of stagnation. Modi believes that he can spread the business-first, no-red-tape model he established in Gujarat across India. His stunning electoral victory (though with slightly under 32 percent of the popular vote) gives him a mandate to do so. Hundreds of millions of all-too-hopeful Indians are about to find out whether Modi can do what he said he would. Despite merited suspicions about Modi's commitment to democracy and secularism, Western leaders need to begin thinking about what they can do to help him succeed.

PLAAF Intercepted Japanese Military Aircraft

Two Chinese fighter jets flew within 50 meters of two Japanese surveillance aircraft over the East China Sea over the past weekend, according to defense officials with both countries.

Two Su-27 Chinese fighters intercepted a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane and a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft on Saturday near a string of islands in the East China Sea.

China and Japan have a dispute over the island chain because of the belief the area has vast oil resources undersea. The island chain is called the Senkaku Islands in Japanese and the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese.

In order to flex its military muscle and boost their hold on the island chain, China declared a no-fly zone over the region. The U.S. flew B-52 bombers without informing the Chinese when the no-fly zone area was declared, but later said U.S. pilots would inform China when their aircraft were in the region.

China’s intercept of the two surveillance aircraft is the first major aviation engagement since the no-fly zone was declared by China.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ukraine: Hints of Patterns

Battles continue in the East.  It appears the LGM are starting to get the worst of it.  Of those captured or killed and IDed in the East, only 20% are local levees.  There are some pretty gruesome pictures from morgues being posted.

 The Ukrainian government had a deadline for the LGM to lay down their weapons for an amnesty.  That deadline has now passed.  The Ukrainians have stated they will begin the offensive full force everywhere.  They stated they held off to give time for those who realized they made a mistake to give up their arms and to minimize the violence during the presidential election.  The election is over and a large part of the LGM haven't given up.  Time to kill.

 The LGM are digging in in Donetsk.  Barricades are going up all over.  The police merely watch.

After the report of the LGM in Lugansk turning on those in Donetsk, news has come out of the LGM executing a number of their own in Donetsk.  The reason?  Rape, murder and robbery.  If they were really concerned about this, they would have stamped down hard immediately.  The LGM have come to realize the populace does not support them and they are screwed by that.

The OSCE has lost another team of observers in the Donbass.  head to desk moment here.

The most intriguing bits from Kiev? Poroshenko has come out and asked for a Lend-Lease Program with the United States: he wants direct military equipment.  he believes sanctions are close to useless in stopping Russia's intervention in Ukraine (does he read Noel's blog?)  He has also stated he wants allies and security guarantees other than the Budapest Memorandum.  If NATO membership for Ukraine is Russia's "red line," they had better be ready to confront the fact Russia has pushed Ukraine closer to NATO than any time prior. 

(my warped and funny idea is *CHINA* becomes the guarantor of Ukrainian sovereignty and drops a division of troops in the Donbas.  Watch Putin *&* Europe freak...however, the US would freak just as much...and Ukraine is not terribly friendly to the idea of the китаєць running around with guns in their country)


A Little bit of Awesomeness: the Ties Between the USS New Mexico & Mesilla's La Posta Restaurant

On a weekday afternoon Dick Brown, Chairman of the USS New Mexico committee of the Navy League is giving a presentation about the nuclear-powered submarine to an audience at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces.

Brown gives these updates to people all over the state to raise awareness and funds for the crew of the USS New Mexico.

“We do things for the crew that the Navy cannot do. One of those things is that we bring crew members to New Mexico so that they understand the state a little bit better. They learn about the geography, the history, and the culture. We usually have about five or six sailors about twice a year,” says Brown.

According to Brown, the crew has learned much about New Mexico and the submarine also has a southwest decor throughout the ship that is hard to miss.

“There are pictures of Carlsbad Caverns, The Balloon Fiesta, and White Sands. The bunk curtains have a Southwest-Native American design, including the pilot, and co-pilot chairs in the diving station,” says Brown.

Another part of the USS New Mexico that shares something in common with the state is the galley, or kitchen. It is named after La Posta de Mesilla, a popular Southern New Mexico restaurant housed in a centuries-old adobe building in the town of Mesilla.

Navy Captain Mark Prokopius, a former commander of the USS New Mexico shares the story about a contest that led to the naming of the submarine’s galley.

“When we decided that we were going to name our galley we put it up to the crew and there were several restaurants that were in the running to be named,” says Cpt. Prokopius.

Tom Hutchinson owns and operates La Posta de Mesilla with his wife Jerean. He is a former Navy Captain and aviator and actually worked with submarines during his time in the Navy.

“They sent several of their Mess specialists down here and trained with us for two to three days, took all that information after visiting all of the establishments back to Virginia, visited with the Skipper and the final vote and tally was that they would name their galley after La Posta de Mesilla,” says Hutchinson.

The crew decided to name it La Posta Abajo del Mar (La Posta under the sea). Captain Prokopius says that restaurant in Mesilla really represented what the crew was looking for.

“When I sold this to the crew and told them about La Posta being a family-owned, Tom Hutchinson being a former Navy captain, and a family oriented restaurant; It really seemed like a perfect fit,” says Cpt. Prokopius.

After the contest ended the crew's culinary specialists were sent to the restaurant to learn recipes. Hutchinson and his employees gave the crew members a firm understanding of the restaurant’s cuisine.


Robopocalypse Now: Amazon Deploying 10,000 Kiva Bots by Year's end

Amazon will be using 10,000 robots in its warehouses by the end of the year.

CEO Jeff Bezos told investors at a shareholder meeting Wednesday that he expects to significantly increase the number of robots used to fulfill customer orders.

There are currently about 1,000 robot workers on Amazon floors. The increase won't change the number of actual people employed, an Amazon spokeswoman said.

The robots are made by Kiva Systems, a company Amazon bought for $775 million two years ago.

They are tied into a complex grid that requires months of planning and testing. But once the system is in place, it can save time and cut down on fulfillment costs.

School Open House 2

Polling the Robopocalypse: Who Should be Allowed to Ride Alone in Driverless Cars?


Nearing FIrefox Down: Thought Controlled Flight Demonstrated in "Brainflight" Project

The pilot is wearing a white cap with myriad attached cables. His gaze is concentrated on the runway ahead of him. All of a sudden the control stick starts to move, as if by magic. The airplane banks and then approaches straight on towards the runway. The position of the plane is corrected time and again until the landing gear gently touches down. During the entire maneuver the pilot touches neither pedals nor controls.

This is not a scene from a science fiction movie, but rather the rendition of a test at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universität München (TUM). Scientists working for Professor Florian Holzapfel are researching ways in which brain controlled flight might work in the EU-funded project "Brainflight." "A long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people," explains aerospace engineer Tim Fricke, who heads the project at TUM. "With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the work load of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit."