Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ukraine War Update: привет мои маленькие друзья, лягушачий!

This is drone footage by the Dnpr-1 battalion on two different dates two weeks apart.  They reconned a Donnie Reb base and then returned.  There seems to be at least a company of tanks and very prepared positions two weeks later on the second visit.  The base has been geolocated to 2.3km south of Sontseve.

As if we needed more evidence of the Russians being actually in Ukraine rather than only their proxies, jamming equipment of Russian origin is very present and IDed.

Over all, the contact line is the quietest it has ever been.  However!  clashes are still taking place: Shirokyne remains at the fore.  

There is a rather frightening rumor running around the the Donbass...on the rebel side of the contact line: the offensive will begin on July 15th.  Rumor runs wild in Ukraine.  I've written about my own experiences.  OTOH, OpSec in the Donbass War has been terrible on Donnie Reb's side and I can believe some soldier told someone he cared about to make themselves gone on a certain date.

In other joyous news, after the Russians determined the transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine during the Soviet Union was illegal, they are now considering whether or not the independence of the Baltic States is considered legal either at the end of the Soviet Union.  This is obvioisly meant to yank the chain of the United States and NATO.  However, you can almost see the Russians stating the dissolution of the Soviet Union was illegal and, therefore...

Oh NO! US Giant Robot Team Challenges Japanese Team to Duel

General Atomics Demostrates Railgun Projectile Compatible Eletronics in Four Test Launches

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced [June 22] that projectiles with on-board electronics survived the railgun launch environment and performed their intended functions in four consecutive tests on 9-10 June at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The week of test activity included marking the 100th successful launch from the GA-EMS’ 3 megajoule Blitzer® electromagnetic railgun.


During the week of testing, the electronics on-board the projectiles successfully measured in-bore accelerations and projectile dynamics, for several kilometers downrange, with the integral data link continuing to operate after the projectiles impacted the desert floor. On-board measurement of flight dynamics is essential for precision guidance. The test projectiles were launched at accelerations over 30,000 times that of gravity and were exposed to the full electromagnetic environment of the railgun launch.

Congress Seeks to ban Human Embryo Modification, Requiring /RELIGIOUS/ Panel for Review of US Institute of Medicine Report

The US House of Representatives is wading into the debate over whether human embryos should be modified to introduce heritable changes. Its fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would prohibit the agency from spending money to evaluate research or clinical applications for such products.

In an unusual twist, the bill—introduced on June 17—would also direct the FDA to create a committee that includes religious experts to review a forthcoming report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM's analysis, which considers the ethics of creating embryos that have three genetic parents, was commissioned by the FDA.

The House legislation comes during a time of intense debate on such matters, sparked by the announcement in April that researchers in China had edited the genomes of human embryos. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) moved quickly to remind the public that a 1996 law prevents the federal government from funding work that destroys human embryos or creates them for research purposes.

This infuriates me. There are several diseases which have promise to be corrected genetically (cystic fibrosis, frex) which would be far, far easier to correct while the person was still an embryo.  Research needs to be done for this and we can fix problems even before a person's life really begins.   But, no, Congress has to be that stupid.

No, they ahve to be worse.

They are requiring a panel of religious figures to review the ethics report of from the IOM!  Unless they are qualified scientists, they have no fscking place reviewing that report as government representatives!

Did Multicellularity in Cyanobacteria Help Drive the Great Oxidation Event?

Cyanobacteria and the Great Oxidation Event: evidence from genes and fossils


Schirrmeister et al


Cyanobacteria are among the most ancient of evolutionary lineages, oxygenic photosynthesizers that may have originated before 3.0 Ga, as evidenced by free oxygen levels. Throughout the Precambrian, cyanobacteria were one of the most important drivers of biological innovations, strongly impacting early Earth's environments. At the end of the Archean Eon, they were responsible for the rapid oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere during an episode referred to as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). However, little is known about the origin and diversity of early cyanobacterial taxa, due to: (1) the scarceness of Precambrian fossil deposits; (2) limited characteristics for the identification of taxa; and (3) the poor preservation of ancient microfossils. Previous studies based on 16S rRNA have suggested that the origin of multicellularity within cyanobacteria might have been associated with the GOE. However, single-gene analyses have limitations, particularly for deep branches. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of cyanobacteria using genome scale data and re-evaluated the Precambrian fossil record to get more precise calibrations for a relaxed clock analysis. For the phylogenomic reconstructions, we identified 756 conserved gene sequences in 65 cyanobacterial taxa, of which eight genomes have been sequenced in this study. Character state reconstructions based on maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic inference confirm previous findings, of an ancient multicellular cyanobacterial lineage ancestral to the majority of modern cyanobacteria. Relaxed clock analyses provide firm support for an origin of cyanobacteria in the Archean and a transition to multicellularity before the GOE. It is likely that multicellularity had a greater impact on cyanobacterial fitness and thus abundance, than previously assumed. Multicellularity, as a major evolutionary innovation, forming a novel unit for selection to act upon, may have served to overcome evolutionary constraints and enabled diversification of the variety of morphotypes seen in cyanobacteria today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Indian Army Starts 40+ ton Future Ready Combat Vehicle (tank), Arjun MBT may be in Trouble

The Indian Army's plan to develop and build a medium-weight main battle tank to replace more than 2,500 Russian T-72s has raised questions about the future of the homemade Arjun tank and likely would kill a decade-old proposal by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to build a tank, according to analysts and officials.

The Indian Army this month floated a global request for information to seek partners to design the new tank under a program called Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). As a medium-weight platform it would weigh 40-plus tons, compared with the Arjun, which weighs 60 tons.

"The proposed FRCV is in the medium category and is more likely to be around the T-90 platform than the Arjun Mark-II platform, which is getting close to the medium-heavy/heavy category," said Anil Chait, retired Indian Army lieutenant general. "Designing and developing the product around proposed qualitative requirements afresh would suggest that we may be looking toward the end of the Arjun saga," he said.

However, Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst, said the Arjun will progress from the current Mark-1 level to Mark-3.

"The lead time for the FRCV to be manufactured, if all goes well, is likely to be approximately 15 years or so. This provides adequate scope for the Arjun series to be progressed to at least Mark-3. Moreover, there is a need in the Indian Army for an Arjun class of tank."

While no Ministry of Defence official would comment on the fate of the decade-old Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT) project to be developed by DRDO, an Army official said FRCV has "surely killed" the FMBT.

The FMBT, intended to be in the 50-plus ton category, was also meant to replace the T-72s.

"The FRCV seems to be a completely new project which possibly junks the FMBT, which was being worked upon by the DRDO or may be a lead to the developing agency to add on to the existing work that has already been done on the same," Bhonsle said.

"I surely see Americans, Russians, French, Germans, Koreans and British participating along with Indian companies in stand-alone or joint venture mode. We could see leading companies from there which are involved with tank design, participating in it," Chait said.

If I were a gambling man - heh - I'd say this would be an natural match for the Russian T-14 tank.  It is lighter than the 60+ ton Arjun (I've seen both 48 tons and 57 tons thrown around, something definitive would be nice!) and the Russians have a historical relationship with the Indians in the defense sector.  There has been a lot more strained relationships as of late with the Russians (re: the problems with the carrier India bought and very dramatically recently the FGPA/PAK-FA problems).  

OTOH, the Russians will almost assuredly be willing to let the Indians manufacture the tank locally: this is a huge plus for the Indians.

OTGH, the Americans and Europeans have not been manufacturing 'medium tanks' for some time.  They either go light (M-8 Buford, the MGS Stryker, etc) or very heavy (Abrams, Leopard, LeClerc).  The Japanese with their Type 90 and the South Koreans with their K2 tank would possibly work.  The Koreans have successfully worked with the Turks on their Altay tank, though the Altay ended up heavier than what the Indians want.

It comes down to what the Indians really want.  If they want to diversify their defense industrial input, they'll go with the Japanese or Koreans.  If they want to get a crack at the new Russian tank, they'll...well, duh.  However, there is a slim chance they will want to collaborate with the Americans to bring the two defense industries closer.  They are already going to do so for naval armaments, especially aircraft carriers.  This would be purely a political decision though.

NeoTethys Seawater was Oxygenated, but had Increasingly and Rapidly Warming Temperatures Just Before the Permian Extinction

Neotethys seawater chemistry and temperature at the dawn of the end Permian mass extinction


Garbelli et al


The end of the Permian was a time of great death and massive upheaval in the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Over the last decades, many causes have been suggested to be responsible for that catastrophe such as global warming, anoxia and acidification. The Gyanyima limestone block was an open ocean seamount in the southern Neotethys at subtropical latitude, and it affords us insight into open-ocean oceanographic changes during the end of the Permian After careful screening using multiple tests, we reconstructed carbonate/seawater curves from the geochemical data stored in pristine brachiopod shell archives from the shallow water limestone of the Changhsingian Gyanyima Formation of Tibet. The reconstructed strontium isotope curve and data for the late Changhsingian is relatively invariant about 0.707013, but in the upper part of the succession the values become more radiogenic climaxing at about 0.707244. The 87Sr/86Sr curve and trend is similar to that observed for the Upper Permian succession in northern Italy, but dissimilar (less radiogenic) to whole rock results from Austria, Iran, China and Spitsbergen. The Ce/Ce* anomaly results. ranging from 0.310 to 0.577 for the brachiopods and from 0.237 to 0.655 for the coeval whole rock before the event, and of 0.276 for whole rock during the extinction event, suggest normal redox conditions. These Ce* values are typical of normal open-ocean oxic water quality conditions observed in modern and other ancient counterparts. The biota and Ce* information clearly discounts global anoxia as a primary cause for the end-Permian biotic crisis. Carbon isotopes from brachiopod shells and whole rock are relatively invariant for most of the latest Permian interval, which is in stark contrast to the distinct negative carbon isotope excursion observed near and about the event. Estimates of seawater temperature at shallow depth fluctuated from 22.2 to 29.0 °C up to unit 8-2, and then gradually rise from 29.7 °C in unit 8-13 to values exceeding 35 °C at a stratigraphic level about 120 ky before the Permian-Triassic boundary, and just before the onset of the extinction interval. This dramatic increase in seawater temperature has been observed in global successions from tropical to mid latitude and from restricted to open ocean localities (e.g., northern Italy, Iran). The brachiopod archive and its geochemical proxies from Tibet support the paradigm that global warming must have been an important factor of the biotic crisis for the terrestrial and marine faunas and floras of the late Paleozoic world.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ukraine War Update: здесь, лягушачий! лягушачий!

This is probably Komsomolske's quarry.

There are now too many sites like this to count.  Donnie Reb could leave all the artillery he has which the OSCE has taken into account at the storage sites and still have enough to quickly launch an offensive.  The Russians have poured in enough troops now so an attack is entirely doable.  tanks have been cruising Donetsk. 

Reports are that there is a very, very large massing of armored fighting vehicles (tanks, APCs and IFVs) in Gorlovka.  These are being interspersed with the remaining residential buildings.  That leads to this.  There's a reason the locals in Donetsk held their rally against the DNR.

The artillery barrages take place all along the contact line.  North to south.  There's far too few places having peace.  At least if you are a significant population center.   The strangest bombardment was in Peski.  Ukrainian sources are claiming it was (a) white phosphorus shell(s).  Here's another video with another shot n a guy's phone and some of the results of the bombardment.  It looks like it, but the Russian side has been claiming the Ukrainians have been using the stuff for some time. 

There have been some claimed ground combat in various places rather than just the artillery.  However, I have not been able to find a video in support.  It seems to happen at night save for Shirokyne.

It ought to be noted, a large number of videos which may contain Russian troops, which have been filmed since Vice News did their hunt down of the Russian soldier, are being released with the faces blurred and/or covered with balaclavas.  To me, that alone is an admission of guilt.  Never mind what Simon did.

Here's a translation of one of the videos of the protest against the DNR and you can contrast what the protestors were saying to what the Russian news broadcast near the end.  Love the claims of concentration camps in Kirovsk. 

(btw: going ad hominem is classic for a argument in Russian)

As another note, Ukrainians are watching 'Electric Yerevan' with extraordinary intensity.    I wonder why?  ;)

SETI Talks: Steps Exploring to the Stars (old school)

Brit Woman Goes Cyborg

A British woman has been fitted with what's billed as the "world’s most lifelike bionic hand". The bebionic small hand is the latest model in Steeper's bebionic line of prosthetic hands and is the first of the advanced myoelectric hands to be specially designed to fit women and teenagers as it senses the user's muscle movements and uses these to trigger individual motors in each finger.

Rocket Science is Hard: SpaceX Loses Falcon9 Rocket Carrying Space Station Resupply Dragon

Skip to the beginning of the launch proper here.

Polymerizing Life's Building Blocks on Europa and Other icy Moons

Polymerization of building blocks of life on Europa and other icy moons


Kimura et al


The outer solar system may provide a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life. Remote sensing data from the Galileo spacecraft suggest that the jovian icy moons, Europa, Ganymede, and possibly Callisto, may harbor liquid water oceans underneath their icy crusts. Although compositional information required for the discussion of habitability is limited because of significantly restricted observation data, organic molecules are ubiquitous in the universe. Recently, in-situ spacecraft measurements and experiments suggest that amino acids can be formed abiotically on interstellar ices and comets. These amino acids could be continuously delivered by meteorite or comet impacts to icy moons. Here, we show that polymerization of organic monomers, in particular amino acids and nucleotides, could proceed spontaneously in the cold environment of icy moons, in particular the Jovian icy moon Europa as a typical example, based on thermodynamic calculations, though kinetics of formation are not addressed. Observed surface temperature on Europa is 120 and 80 K in the equatorial region and polar region, respectively. At such low temperatures, Gibbs energies of polymerization become negative, and the estimated thermal structure of the icy crust should contain a shallow region (i.e., at a depth of only a few kilometers) favorable for polymerization. Investigation of the possibility of organic monomer polymerization on icy moons could provide good constraints on the origin and early evolution of extraterrestrial life.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Difference Between Self Driving Cars, Driver Assistance Systems and how Self Driving Cars see the Roads

Google Takes 3rd Gen Self Driving Car to Roads

In a post today on its Google+ page, the Google Self-Driving Car Project announced that its latest cars were being tested on public roads starting today. The odd-shaped little cars are the third generation of self-driving car technology that Google has been testing since 2012.

Drivers around Mountain View might see the little cars rolling around suburban streets and the Google campus, joining the existing fleet of modified Lexus RX450h and Toyota Prius models. Each car will have a "safety driver," although Google's ultimate vision is to do away with standard controls such as the steering wheel and accelerator.

The cars are part of an ongoing project to develop self-driving cars that could potentially be safer than human drivers. Automotive equipment supplier Delphi Labs, also in Mountain View, has been testing its own self-driving car technology on public roads, making the area a hotbed for this type of technology. Automakers, such as Nissan and Ford, have predicted that autonomous cars will become available to the public by 2020.

Google notes that its new self-driving cars, which use electric propulsion, have a top speed of 25 mph. The Google+ post asks "to hear what our neighbors think," seeming to elicit comment from drivers who encounter the cars.

What Caused Mars to Lose its Atmosphere?

Outgassing History and Escape of the Martian Atmosphere and Water Inventory


Lammer et al


The evolution and escape of the martian atmosphere and the planet's water inventory can be separated into an early and late evolutionary epoch. The first epoch started from the planet's origin and lasted ∼500 Myr. Because of the high EUV flux of the young Sun and Mars' low gravity it was accompanied by hydrodynamic blow-off of hydrogen and strong thermal escape rates of dragged heavier species such as O and C atoms. After the main part of the protoatmosphere was lost, impact-related volatiles and mantle outgassing may have resulted in accumulation of a secondary CO2 atmosphere of a few tens to a few hundred mbar around ∼4--4.3 Gyr ago. The evolution of the atmospheric surface pressure and water inventory of such a secondary atmosphere during the second epoch which lasted from the end of the Noachian until today was most likely determined by a complex interplay of various nonthermal atmospheric escape processes, impacts, carbonate precipitation, and serpentinization during the Hesperian and Amazonian epochs which led to the present day surface pressure.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flexible Robotic Manufacturing: Building a Birdhouse

Can the US Afford to Replace its Cold War Nuclear Arsenal?

The greatest threat to the US long-range strike bomber (LRS-B) programme could be a submarine, with new a report showing that modernization of the sea-based leg of America’s nuclear triad dwarfs planned spending on airborne assets.

At a congressional hearing June 25, the US deputy secretary of defense Robert Work said the Pentagon is going to need an average of $18 billion per year between 2021 and 2035 on top of what it already spends on the nuclear force just to afford its planned submarine, bomber, intercontinental ballistic missile and cruise missile replacement efforts.

Work says without more money for nuclear modernization, the DOD will be forced to make “very, very hard choices” that impact conventional weaponry.

“The choice right now is modernizing or loosing deterrent capability in the 2020s and 2030s. That’s the stark choice we’re faced with,” Work says, noting that the current nuclear force that has been in place since the Cold War is “ageing out”.

He agreed with a recent analysis published June 23 by the Center Force Strategic and Budgetary Assessment that shows a almost doubling of spending on the sea-based leg of the nuclear force in the mid-2020s, just as LRS-B production and spending peaks.

Highly Productive Polar Forests in Permian Antarctica Before Siberian Traps Eruptions

Highly Productive Polar Forests from the Permian of Antarctica


Miller et al


Two stratigraphically closely spaced bedding planes exposed at Lamping Peak in the Upper Buckley Formation, Beardmore Glacier area, Antarctica contain abundant in situ stumps (n=53, n=21) and other plant fossils that allow reconstruction of forest structure and biomass of Glossopteris forests that thrived at ~ 75o S paleolatitude in the Permian. Mean trunk diameter is 14 and 25 cm, corresponding to estimated mean maximum heights of 12 and 19 m. Basal areas are 65 and 80 m2ha- 1. The above ground biomass was calculated using allometric equations for Ginkgo biloba, yielding biomasses of 147 and 178 Mg ha- 1. Biomass estimates based on comparison with biomass of modern forests with equivalent basal areas are higher (225 – 400 Mg ha- 1). The amount of above ground biomass added each year (Annual Net Primary Productivity), based on biomass estimates and growth rings in silicified plant material from the Buckley Formation nearby, is poorly constrained, ranging from ~ 100 – 2000 g m- 2 yr- 1.

Compared to modern forests at all latitudes, the Permian forests have high basal areas and high biomass, exceeded in both only by forests of the U.S. Pacific northwest and Sequoia forests. The estimated range of productivity (ANPP) is within that of many very productive modern forests. The Lamping Peak forests’ basal areas and calculated biomass are also larger than younger high paleolatitude fossil forests except for Arctic Cenozoic forests.

Presence of these highly productive fossil forests at high paleolatitude is consistent with hothouse conditions during the Late Permian, prior to the eruption of the Siberian flood basalts.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Повторный запуск Огонь для Лягушка??

Yesterday, a Russian aid convoy arrived in the Donetsk region.  The aid convoy came in two groups.  The Russian border officials inspected the interiors of the trucks.  The Ukrainians only inspected the exterior of the trucks.  If the previous patterns hold, 48 to 72 hours from yesterday, Donnie Reb will go on the offensive.

This ties in nicely with the leader (Zakharchenko) of the DNR stating if Ukraine does not surrender the rest of the Donetsk Oblast, the DNR will attack to take it.

A Donetsk resident made an interesting video:

He notes the firing artillery or launch of rockets and when they impact.  Ukrainians are claiming this is evidence of what they have been saying all along: the DNR is shelling its own territory to make the residents think the Ukrainians are hitting them.  Its not clear this is happening.  The distances between the DNR and UAF forces is rather short and it could be they are impacting the UAF only.

For the moment, fighting actually died down.  Not as much as the OSCE sees, but it significantly less.  Two possible exceptions are Maryinka and Shirokyne. 

I missed putting this video up from the large assault on Maryinka:

Look at 00:54.  Peekaboo!  I see you!

May be of Historical Interest for Supercomputing Geeks & Groupies

This little pamphlet was given to me by a retiring coworker.

Iowa State Develops Micro Tentacle Manipulators

If you had to grasp a tiny delicate object such as a blood vessel, doing so with traditional tweezers would be a very painstaking process – just a little too much pressure, and the object could be crushed. Instead, scientists from Iowa State University have developed miniature coiling tentacles for doing the job. They're even capable of holding an ant without harming it.

The tentacles are actually microtubes measuring just 8 mm long by about a quarter of a millimeter across, that are composed of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) elastomer.

You know the Japanese anime crowd are going to love this tech.

Better Fossil Makes Cambrian Ecdysozoan Hallucigenia’s Head Seem Even More Alien

Hallucigenia’s head and the pharyngeal armature of early ecdysozoans


Smith et al


The molecularly defined clade Ecdysozoa comprises the panarthropods (Euarthropoda, Onychophora and Tardigrada) and the cycloneuralian worms (Nematoda, Nematomorpha, Priapulida, Loricifera and Kinorhyncha). These disparate phyla are united by their means of moulting, but otherwise share few morphological characters—none of which has a meaningful fossilization potential. As such, the early evolutionary history of the group as a whole is largely uncharted. Here we redescribe the 508-million-year-old stem-group onychophoran Hallucigenia sparsa from the mid-Cambrian Burgess Shale. We document an elongate head with a pair of simple eyes, a terminal buccal chamber containing a radial array of sclerotized elements, and a differentiated foregut that is lined with acicular teeth. The radial elements and pharyngeal teeth resemble the sclerotized circumoral elements and pharyngeal teeth expressed in tardigrades, stem-group euarthropods and cycloneuralian worms. Phylogenetic results indicate that equivalent structures characterized the ancestral panarthropod and, seemingly, the ancestral ecdysozoan, demonstrating the deep homology of panarthropod and cycloneuralian mouthparts, and providing an anatomical synapomorphy for the ecdysozoan supergroup.

If that doesn't look like an sfnal alien critter, IDK what would.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Steinmeier ist ein dummkopf bereit

Sorry if my German is a little rusty.  I get more practice these days with my Russian (which is still atrocious) than either my German or Spanish.  Normally, I open with a discussion of the battles going on in Ukraine.  While the large scale incursions, like at Maryinka, have died down again, well, except for Shirokyne, of course, the clashes are ongoing all along the contact line.  We seem to have returned to a sitzkrieg.

However, the big news of today is the idiocy of the German government.  Not only have they lost their minds over Greece, they keep demonstrating batshit nutsiness when it comes to Ukraine: ""The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine could become an example for other regions."  oy.  Just oy.  He said it in context of atempting to broker a ceasefire in Shirokyne.

Let me be blunt: Donnie Reb has no desire to make peace.  As soon as there is peace, the local populace will turn their attention on their 'leaders' and that will turn out badly.  The locals have already stated protesting the war and the conditions they are in.  Without having to duck and hide all the time...

Speaking of Shirokyne.  Vice News spent time with the fighters there and one of the soldiers they interviewed was killed during the visit:

Then there is a 'nice' walk through of the remains of Shirokyne by some Ukrainian allied Chechens:

 Further to the north, around Shirokyne, more villages are now being bombarded. These are ones you would hit if you were to bypass Shirokyne to head to Mariupol.

Finally, lest we forget Lugansk:


While the battle for the Donetsk Airport is remembered, it had a prequel in the battle for Lugansk's airport.  There are the photos of the Lugansk airport since the battle there ended. 

Robopocalypse Now: FAA to Allow First Drone Deliveries in USA on July 17th

Here in the United States, it seemed like legal red tape would stall the launch of delivery drones for years, but the wait is over sooner than expected.

On July 17, the Federal Aviation Administration will allow unmanned aircraft to deliver medical supplies to a free clinic during research flights in West Virginia. That occasion will be the first legal drone delivery on U.S. soil, and represent another big step forward for the U.S. drone industry.

Wait! WHAT?!?! DARPA Working on Genetically Engineering Mars Terraforming Organisms?!

It’s no secret that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing heavily in genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Whether that excites or terrifies you depends on how you feel about the military engineering totally new life forms. If you’re in the excitement camp, however, here’s a nugget for you: DARPA believes that it's on the way to creating organisms capable of terraforming Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth.

The goal of terraforming Mars would be to warm up and potentially thicken its atmosphere by growing green, photosynthesizing plants, bacteria, and algae on the barren Martian surface. It’s a goal that even perpetual techno-optimists like Elon Musk think isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but it’s a goal that DARPA apparently already has its eyes on.

“For the first time, we have the technological toolkit to transform not just hostile places here on Earth, but to go into space not just to visit, but to stay,” Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s new Biological Technologies Office said Monday at a DARPA-hosted biotech conference. As she said this, Jackson was pointing at an artist's rendering of a terraformed Mars.

Knowing DARPA, I suspect they are going more for an Scalzi Future rather than terraform Mars.  Then again, maybe DARPA is prepping Mars as the American bolthole in case we lose in a fight with China.  ;)

DM Technologies Blade: how Much of This car was REALLY 3d Printered?


I can find a quick blurb on the car and the photo gallery, but nothing substantial. 

Parrots Push Chaco Canyon (Anasazi/Puebloan) Culture/MesoAmerican Trade Origin Between 800 to 900 AD

Somehow, colorful tropical scarlet macaws from tropical Mesoamerica -- the term anthropologists use to refer to Mexico and parts of northern Central America -- ended up hundreds of miles north in the desert ruins of an ancient civilization in what is now New Mexico.

Early scientists began excavating the large Pueblo settlements in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico and found the birds' remains in the late 1890s, but only recent radiocarbon dating of the physical evidence has pushed back the time period of sophisticated Pueblo culture by at least 150 years, according to a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author and archaeologist Stephen Plog, the University of Virginia's David A. Harrison Professor of Anthropology, worked with Adam S. Watson of the American Museum of Natural History, Douglas J. Kennett of Pennsylvania State University and a team of researchers from the museum and other universities to have macaw bones dated and interpret the results.

Using accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon methods with high precision in dating, the researchers found the macaw skeletal remains were much older than previously thought -- from as early as the late A.D. 800s -- signaling what researchers theorize was a Pueblo culture established enough to form relationships with Mesoamerican cultures to the south. Plog said archaeologists had typically put the beginning of the apex of ancestral Pueblo civilization in Chaco at A.D. 1040, based on other means such as tree-ring dating that suggested a major architectural expansion began at that time.

Anthropologists had already determined that the ancient Pueblo developed a complex social and religious hierarchy in the canyon, reflected in their distinctive architecture. They have posited that Chaco's 'golden century' or the Chaco 'florescence' occurred from A.D. 1040 to 1110, coinciding with a major expansion of the 'great houses.' These great houses contained clustered complexes of rooms for large gatherings, lodgings, storage, burial and religious rituals. Pueblo Bonito, with about 650 rooms in the largest of the great houses of Chaco Canyon, is where most of the macaws were recovered.

'In general, most researchers have argued that emergence of hierarchy, and of extensive trade networks that extended into Mexico coincided with what we see as other aspects of the Chaco florescence: Roads being built outward from Chaco and the formation of what are called Chaco outliers that mimic the architecture seen in the cultural center,' Plog said.

The radiocarbon dating project, led by Plog, Watson, and Kennett, showed that the bird remains came from as early as the late A.D. 800s to mid 900s. The earlier dating suggests that the rise of Pueblo sociopolitical complexity developed earlier than previously thought.

Mesozoic Marine Revolution Started Very Quickly After Permian Triassic Extinction

Coprolites of marine vertebrate predators from the Lower Triassic of southern Poland


Brachaniec et al


Numerous coprolites are described for the first time herein from the Lower Triassic (Olenekian) shallow marine sedimentary rocks in southern Poland. X-ray Diffraction and geochemical analyses show that they are preserved as calcium phosphate with small admixtures of quartz and calcite. Additionally, SEM and thin section studies revealed that they contain highly fragmented faunal remains (crinoids, molluscs and vertebrates). The size, shape, geochemistry, biostratigraphic distribution and co-occurrence with vertebrate skeletal remains imply that the coprolites at hand were likely produced by nothosaurids, the durophagous sauropterygian reptiles and actinopterygian (ray-finned) fish. The large number of recorded coprolites implies that durophagous predation has been intense during the Early Triassic and suggests that the so-called Mesozoic Marine Revolution probably started soon after the end-Permian extinction. Furthermore, discovery of sinusoidal trails attributable to nematodes in some coprolites implies that the intestinal parasitic associations with these predators had already evolved by at least the Early Triassic.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ukraine War Update: сумасшедшая Лягушка

F-35B Does First Ski Jump Lift off for Royal & Italian Navies

The F-35B jump-jet version of the Joint Strike Fighter has completed its first takeoff from a ski jump, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

The stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to fly like a plane and land like a helicopter accomplished the task Friday from a test-ramp at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, according to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program.

“This test is one of the milestones along the way for integrating the F-35B aboard UK and Italian aircraft carriers,” he said in an e-mail.

Both countries plan to deploy their short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) versions of the jet aboard carriers equipped with a ski jump, a feature that allows aircraft to carry more weight despite taking off from a short runway.


American Nuclear Weapons Update: Nukes for F-35C and Commonality Sought for US Navy SLBM and USAF ICBM Replacements

A US think tank has proposed installing nuclear weapons on the Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter for deployment aboard aircraft carriers as a hedge against Russia and China.

Clark Murdock of the Center for Strategic and International Studies floated the idea of a return to carrier-based nuclear weapons in a new report published on 22 June.

The US government has committed to outfitting only the land-based F-35A with nuclear weapons as a “dual-capable aircraft,” namely the Boeing B61-12 thermonuclear guided bomb.

According to Murdock though, the F-35C should also receive nuclear weapons in the future as a “visible manifestation” of the United States’ commitment to protecting its allies.

As the Air Force train pulls out of the station, the Navy’s running alongside asking to be pulled aboard. Both services will need to replace aging nuclear missiles sometime ca. 2030. They could save money by coordinating their modernization programs — but the Air Force is on a tighter schedule and the window of opportunity is starting to close.

“Commonality [is] a topic that I’ve been pretty aggressively shopping around town to anyone who will listen to me,” said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, the Navy’s director of Strategic Systems Programs. But while the Navy’s not officially launched an effort to replace its Trident submarined-launched ballistic missile, the Air Force’s Minuteman ICBM replacement, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, already issued a Request For Information back in January. “Because of the urgency of the GBSD effort,” Benedict said, “we need to begin this assessment now.”

“There’s absolute consensus at the leadership level to begin that work,” Benedict said at Peter Huessy breakfast hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute. “I think the direction to formally proceed on that work is imminent.”

In the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon’s top buyer, Undersecretary Frank Kendall himself, is conducting a Strategic Posture Review that addresses the commonality question. Benedict has also spoken to the Air Force’s top buyer, Assistant Sec. Bill LaPlante, and to the service’s program executive officer for weapons, Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson. Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney even got Benedict to address a meeting of “basically every flag officer in the United States Air Force associated with ICBMs.”

“It’s hard to argue with [commonality]: I mean, who doesn’t want to save money?” Benedict said. “But, rightfully, they have a requirement that they have to meet to replace the Minuteman III, and so there are concerns that this does not distract them or derail them from meeting that requirement, and I respect that.”

The Air Force and the Navy also need their missiles to do different things. At the most basic level, launching from a silo underground is very different from launching from a submarine underwater. A component that works for both may not be optimal for either.

Archosauriforms Radiated, Became Parasagittal During Late Permian

The Origin and Early Radiation of Archosauriforms: Integrating the Skeletal and Footprint Record


Bernardi et al


We present a holistic approach to the study of early archosauriform evolution by integrating body and track records. The ichnological record supports a Late Permian–Early Triassic radiation of archosauriforms not well documented by skeletal material, and new footprints from the Upper Permian of the southern Alps (Italy) provide evidence for a diversity not yet sampled by body fossils. The integrative study of body fossil and footprint data supports the hypothesis that archosauriforms had already undergone substantial taxonomic diversification by the Late Permian and that by the Early Triassic archosauromorphs attained a broad geographical distribution over most parts of Pangea. Analysis of body size, as deduced from track size, suggests that archosauriform average body size did not change significantly from the Late Permian to the Early Triassic. A survey of facies yielding both skeletal and track record indicate an ecological preference for inland fluvial (lacustrine) environments for early archosauromorphs. Finally, although more data is needed, Late Permian chirotheriid imprints suggest a shift from sprawling to erect posture in archosauriforms before the end-Permian mass extinction event. We highlight the importance of approaching palaeobiological questions by using all available sources of data, specifically through integrating the body and track fossil record.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Son's Gift to me for Father's Day

The Robopocalypse Comes for the Customs Agent

New airport technologies unveiled at the Paris Air Show this week promise robots replacing immigration officers and much faster identification of criminals through their biometric data.

French electrical systems company Thales premiered its new equipment designed to speed up passage through airports.

In their vision of the future, passengers will no longer deal with check-in desks -- an innovation already making inroads in many airports.

To take that even further, Thales has designed a machine that not only scans passports and prints boarding passes, but also records an image of the passenger's face and iris, which are then shared with computers around the airport.

The images are already in the system when the passenger arrives at the immigration desk, allowing a tall, white robot to automatically confirm the person's identity without the need for human border staff.

"You would only need one agent for every four or five machines," said Pascal Zenoni, a Thales manager presenting the equipment at the air show.

"These systems can free up staff for the police and create more space in the airport," he added.

The passenger's face is also printed in encrypted form on the boarding pass so that it can be scanned by staff at the gate for a final identity check.

The Flora of Asselian Permian Equitorial and Seasonally dry Pangea...From Las Cruces, NM

Early Permian (Asselian) vegetation from a seasonally dry coast in western equatorial Pangea: Paleoecology and evolutionary significance


Falcon-Lang et al


The Pennsylvanian–Permian transition has been inferred to be a time of significant glaciation in the Southern Hemisphere, the effects of which were manifested throughout the world. In the equatorial regions of Pangea, the response of terrestrial ecosystems was highly variable geographically, reflecting the interactions of polar ice and geographic patterns on atmospheric circulation. In general, however, there was a drying trend throughout most of the western and central equatorial belt. In western Pangea, the climate proved to be considerably more seasonally dry and with much lower mean annual rainfall than in areas in the more central and easterly portions of the supercontinent. Here we describe lower Permian (upper Asselian) fossil plant assemblages from the Community Pit Formation in Prehistoric Trackways National Monument near Las Cruces, south-central New Mexico, U.S.A. The fossils occur in sediments within a 140-m-wide channel that was incised into indurated marine carbonates. The channel filling can be divided into three phases. A basal channel, limestone conglomerate facies contains allochthonous trunks of walchian conifers. A middle channel fill is composed of micritic limestone beds containing a brackish-to-marine fauna with carbon, oxygen and strontium isotopic composition that provide independent support for salinity inferences. The middle limestone also contains a (par)autochthonous adpressed megaflora co-dominated by voltzian conifers and the callipterid Lodevia oxydata. The upper portions of the channel are filled with muddy, gypsiferous limestone that lacks plant fossils. This is the geologically oldest occurrence of voltzian conifers. It also is the westernmost occurrence of L. oxydata, a rare callipterid known only from the Pennsylvanian–Permian transition in Poland, the Appalachian Basin and New Mexico. The presence of in situ fine roots within these channel-fill limestone beds and the taphonomic constraints on the incorporation of aerial plant remains into a lime mudstone indicate that the channel sediments were periodically colonized by plants, which suggests that these species were tolerant of salinity, making these plants one of, if not the earliest unambiguous mangroves.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Return of the Crazy Thoughts: Dealing with the Robopocalypse [Part 2]

This was originally planned to be the followup to the post I wrote in March 2015.  However, like everything it seems in my life, there has been far, far too muh to do and too little time, so things slipped.  This one slipped the most.  Or close to it.

So!  Much later!  Here we go!

The topic for the post series is the Robopocalypse and what to do with the fact so many jobs which we have long relied upon to help power our economy are simply going to go away.  Machines will take the place of workers.  This will be a greater disruption to how the economy works than even the first Industrial Revolution.  How we as humanity cope with it will determine the future.  I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but consider capital, as in dinero, will be able to replace labor in vast swathes of the economy cannot help but make you take pause when you consider the implications.

We could end up a world of the hyper-rich and the rest of us as serfs in a techno feudalist society: Blomkamp's Elysium captures the flavour, but not the details.  Or we could have a Pournellian Welfare Island Scenario.  Alternately, we end up like the residents of Wall-E's Axiom.  Or we could end up completely irrelevant.  And the future could go downhill from there.  Or we could go the extreme in the other direction, a Neo Luddite approach where those who do embrace the robopocalypse render us and our economy irrelevant: we would be the 'North Korea' of the 21st/22nd century, economically speaking.  None of those potentialities are particularly appealing. 

In the previous post, it was established that jobs for at least 26 million working force Americans are going to go away under the Robopocalypse of the next 20 years. This is through straight replacement of people with automata in the low hanging fruit of robotic tasks.  

There are also knowledge base jobs which can and will be replaced with software: think IBM's Watson, Apple's Siri and MicroSoft Cortana amped up with massive back-end databases.  These will move into the white collar jobs as well.  And that in turn will have a significant, if less clear impact on the availability of those jobs. 

Then there are those jobs which might have existed, but will be rolled back simply because the spending from the tens of millions of people now unemployable do not have the extra money to spend.  The restaurant may only need five people to cater to thousands daily, but if there is no one who can afford to go to that restaurant, then it won't exist.  

Here we seek another way.

However, what could that way be?  After all, you have potentially more people driven to unemployment than in the Great Depression.  In fact, for many, those workers may even be unemployable!  There are simply no jobs which those workers can take, not even the emergency crap jobs most of us could resort to: the emergency, crap jobs will simply not exist. 

All of those people simply cannot earn a living.  Period.

This means they will not buy the goods of the rich, so the rich will not remain rich long.  ("After all all, Mr Ford...")

It is already a case where the average person finds it exceedingly hard to vault past getting by.  Until a family (or individual) can reach the point where they can regularly risk five to ten percent of their income without any fear of what may happen, they cannot begin to accumulate wealth.  In addition, that five to ten percent must be above certain thresholds as well: it must be in the thousands of dollars on a regular basis.  If not, they cannot do the necessary bootstrapping.  This is in the economy now.

Consider the economy of the robopocalypse where a huge number of people cannot work at all based on their current skillsets and even their probable ones with training: the majority of employees from Mickey D's are not (most likely) going to become rock star programmers, engineers or scientists. Even so, there will be intense competition for what jobs there are and we could end up with a very high, European-like unemployment.
With very large numbers of unemployed, that gets dangerous.  At some point, they are going to come looking for what they feel ought to be their's.

What to do?

There is an obvious answer, but its one which when I began pondering what to do about the robopocalypse was very unpalatable: a guaranteed minimum income.  This i the concept whereby everyone is always guaranteed an income, whether they hold a job or not for the entirety of their lives.  The mechanism is everyone, regardless of their income, is cut a cheque each month for a certain amount.  The intent is to make sure everyone is at least above the poverty line and can survive.  Guaranteed.  This is the ultimate welfare state.  

I had a real problem with this when I was thinking about it.  After all, I am a Republican[1] (*gasp*shock*hiss for many of my readers!).  I believe very strongly in the 'right to fail:' that is a person has the right to succeed or fail on their own hard work.  People ought to be rewarded for their hard work and ingenuity. 

But again, there's no way for many people to get to the point where they can earn any money under the robopocalypse.  And eschewing the robopocalypse in favour of human employment won't work either.  So, again, even if the answer makes you uncomfortable, it is still the answer.  Whether or not you like it.

It turns out there is actually a some conservative support for a guaranteed minimum income.  Milton Friedman wrote about a variant in his influential book Capitalism and Freedom.  Here is a very, very respected and most definitely conservative economist who advocated a minimum income to alleviate poverty and that was in the pre Robopocalyptic economy.

There is another "conservative[2]" who is quite famous who tried to get a minimum income implemented in the United States: Richard Nixon.  The monster report on this was his Commission on Income Maintenance that he followed up with trying get Congress to pass bills in support.  It failed and I am sure there might have been some nontrivial political distractions which helped preemptively derail any second attempts at getting it passed[3]. 

Finally, Alaska has its Permanent Fund.  Regular payments are made out of it in the form of dividends to every long term resident of Alaska...and Alaska is hardly noted for being a blue state. 

If the economist who came up with the conservative touch stone of school vouchers, the president who employed Pat Buchanan and one of the reddest states in the Union were & is ok with the concept with a guaranteed minimum income, then my conservative side ought to get over itself.

First Caveat: The Welfare Trap

The first problem is we are setting everyone up for the welfare trap.  This is where working at all is disincentivized.  If you work and earn above a certain level, then you lose your guaranteed income. This is part of the problem with a negative income tax.  There is little reason to work if you are not going to get more out of it by doing so.

The answer here is to guarantee everyone gets the income irregardless of how much they are making.  If you are a citizen of the United States, you get an income.  Whether you are a gazllionaire or fresh off the boat and unable to do anything other than breathe, you get an income.
Second Caveat: The Stratification Trap

Even with the implementation of a guaranteed minimum income, we still have a problem.  And sadly, its as big of a problem in its own way.  By providing everyone with the minimum to survive but no mechanism to thrive, we end up with a society of the immensely rich getting richer and the rest just to survive.  There must be a method built in for people to thrive not just survive.

The guaranteed income by itself is insufficient to make a healthy society.  You have a different case of the peasants and aristocracy.   People who survive and people who own everything.  Not good.  Even worse than things are today.

Despite having just proposed a very socialist concept here for the first half of the mechanism for dealing with the robopocalypse, the other half is going to be a very capitalist solution.  Even after the robopocalypse, there is going to be a need for businesses of various sorts.  Small, large, everything between.  The single biggest problem with starting a business is access to capital.  People have ideas, often very good ones which fill needs, but cannot get the money to get started.

The proposal here would be to create method for people to propose businesses and have them funded.  It need not be a solitary mechanism.  There may be several.  One may be the equivalent of kickstarter (properly regulated) whereby people can directly invest rather than donate to.  Another may be a form X number of loan guarantees per life time for a person from a larger, reformed SBA targeted at startup companies, allowing for larger amounts of capital to move there rather than just the standard small business loan.  It might even be a direct investment or loan by the government fund to the individual.

Third Caveat: The Structural Trap

How you set the fund up for this is really important.  Its funding source should not be raidable by Congress or the rest of the government.  Ideally, it ought to be built up in a manner similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund such that it will, over time, increase without increasing revenue streams if at all possible.  Likewise, it ought to be structured such it should be insulated from market fluctuations: a economic downturn could wipe out the fund if mismanaged.  That's dangerous and ought to be protected: people's lives are depending on this fund.

Fourth Caveat: The Funding Trap

The largest elephant in the room is funding.   Indeed, if you were to chop up the entirety of the budget of the United States and simply pay it out to every person in the country, you would end up only getting $11,000 individually.  That's too little for anyone to actually live on and would fail to provide for a defense or other government functions.

Where the income comes from for the fund is very important: it needs to be able to sustain paying for 310+ million people while not producing a crushing burden on those who are making money above and beyond.  Let's list the potential sources.  Reminder, these are meant to be suggestions, rather than absolutely required.

1.  A progressive income tax for income above the dividend paid out by the "US Permanent Income Fund."  It probably could be quite similar to what we have now, just with the equivalent of 'zero' tax being when someone does not earn anything above the guaranteed income.  The except to keeping everything the same or very similar would be to get rid of most of the deductions: the rich won't end up paying like Mitt Romney (15%), but what they really ought to (somewhere around 35%).  An exception might be for mortgages; however, but with a limit on the total amount of interest which can be claimed. 

2.  Social insurance taxes - since this would be largely replacing the social security - bring in another almost $1.1 trillion.  Raise the limit for social security taxes: currently this is only paid up to around $120k.  Everything you earn above that is social insurance tax free.  This could easily raise the amount of revenue significantly and could potentially pay even more than the regular income tax.

3.  Corporate taxes.  Guess what?  Corporations in the United States paid less than one fourth what individuals did in taxes in 2015.  That could easily be rectified.  After all, Google, Apple and others have a combined in excess of $100 billion in cash.

4.  A carbon tax.  Originally I was going to state a fossil fuel tax, but its largely the same.  Natural gas is cheaper in the US than anywhere in the world.  Add a moderate tax.  Coal is environmentally destructive and adds to our carbon emissions hand over fist. If a tax for the equivalent of 10 cents per gallon for carbon emissions were added at a flat rate across the board for all carbon sources, the US would collect over $500 billion.  If an associated carbon tariff is also employed, then the intake would at least be comparable to the income tax intake.

Up to this point, all we've done is balanced the US budget, neglecting other sources of income for the government.  And the carbon tax, we hope, will slowly decrease in revenue.  This

5.  A robot tax.  This would be a direct, specific tax on the bot which is replacing Assuming a bot costs the same as one year's salary for the employee the robot is replacing, even a significant tax at the time of purchase would hardly be arduous since the bot will be far, far cheaper over the long term.  A 100% tax would be possible (though perhaps not advisable) if the bot was replaced every 5 years, the business owner still comes out way ahead.  Even with the price drop of the goods as there is a race to the bottom for pricing, the revenue from the 'robot tax' would be quite significant; doubly so since the cost of services and goods would decrease and allow for more production and bots and the associated tax.  In fact, there would be enormous amounts of growth if costs really dropped that much.  A tariff of a similar kind would probably be necessary as well.  How that would work with free trade deals, I have no idea, to be honest.


The idea here is everyone gets a guaranteed minimum income.  This is intended only to make sure people have comfortable, but not luxurious life.  Additionally, the cost of this would be born by those who can afford it, the corporations which make far more than individuals do and pay far less taxes, the bots which are replacing people and a carbon tax (really a lot like the petroleum based funds if you think about it).

However, a mega welfare state is not the sole change.  The second change would also be to greatly increase the access to capital by the average person through a major expansion of the SBA (with the understanding most of the businesses would fail and not ding the person) and other potential methods as well.  This would also allow for people to start their own businesses and with the aid of the robopocalypse potentially bootstrap themselves.

The fundamental idea here is people are taken care of at comfortable, but not luxurious level.  Then it is up to them to bootstrap themselves - and they have the tools to do so now - past that point.  However, that takes their own hard work to do so.

There are questions which need to be answered - besides verifying we can afford this plan - and those will be addressed in the next post.  Which might take a while.

1.  I'm a fiscal conservative, social liberal, foreign policy conservative and technological liberal.

2.  He'd be comfortably within the left wing of the Democratic Party these days...how bizarre.

3.  While I do not like Nixon much at all, I'm none too fond of LBJ and he, while seemingly a loathesome man, succeeded in doing some pretty impressive legislation.  Nixon might have produced some good socially if not for his paranoid stupidity that led him his criminal acts.

Waterfalls on an Iceberg: *cough*globalwarming*cough*

Three Different Theias

Melting and Mixing States of the Earth's Mantle after the Moon-Forming Impact


Nakajima et al


The Earth's Moon is thought to have formed by an impact between the Earth and an impactor around 4.5 billion years ago. This impact could have been so energetic that it could have mixed and homogenized the Earth's mantle. However, this view appears to be inconsistent with geochemical studies that suggest that the Earth's mantle was not mixed by the impact. Another plausible outcome is that this energetic impact melted the whole mantle, but the extent of mantle melting is not well understood even though it must have had a significant effect on the subsequent evolution of the Earth's interior and atmosphere. To understand the initial state of the Earth's mantle, we perform giant impact simulations using smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) for three different models: (a) standard: a Mars-sized impactor hits the proto-Earth, (b) fast-spinning Earth: a small impactor hits a rapidly rotating proto-Earth, and (c) sub-Earths: two half Earth-sized planets collide. We use two types of equations of state (MgSiO3 liquid and forsterite) to describe the Earth's mantle. We find that the mantle remains unmixed in (a), but it may be mixed in (b) and (c). The extent of mixing is most extensive in (c). Therefore, (a) is most consistent and (c) may be least consistent with the preservation of the mantle heterogeneity, while (b) may fall between. We determine that the Earth's mantle becomes mostly molten by the impact in all of the models. The choice of the equations of state does not affect these outcomes. Additionally, our results indicate that entropy gains of the mantle materials by a giant impact cannot be predicted well by the Rankine-Hugoniot equations. Moreover, we show that the mantle can remain unmixed on a Moon-forming timescale if it does not become mixed by the impact.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ukraine War Update: When a good subreddit goes to war

Scientists are Requesting FDA Allow Trials to Test Anti Aging/Increased Health Span Drugs

Doctors and scientists want drug regulators and research funding agencies to consider medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs. Such treatments have a physiological basis, researchers say, and could extend a person’s healthy years by slowing down the processes that underlie common diseases of ageing — making them worthy of government approval. On 24 June, researchers will meet with regulators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the case for a clinical trial designed to show the validity of the approach.

Current treatments for diseases related to ageing “just exchange one disease for another”, says physician Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. That is because people treated for one age-related disease often go on to die from another relatively soon thereafter. “What we want to show is that if we delay ageing, that’s the best way to delay disease.”

Barzilai and other researchers plan to test that notion in a clinical trial called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME. They will give the drug metformin to thousands of people who already have one or two of three conditions — cancer, heart disease or cognitive impairment — or are at risk of them. People with type 2 diabetes cannot be enrolled because metformin is already used to treat that disease. The participants will then be monitored to see whether the medication forestalls the illnesses they do not already have, as well as diabetes and death.

On 24 June, researchers will try to convince FDA officials that if the trial succeeds, they will have proved that a drug can delay ageing. That would set a precedent that ageing is a disorder that can be treated with medicines, and perhaps spur progress and funding for ageing research.

During a meeting on 27 May at the US National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Bethesda, Maryland, Robert Temple, deputy director for clinical science at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, indicated that the agency is open to the idea.

The Messinian Salinity Crisis may NOT Have Completely Dessicated the Mediterranean Sea

The deep record of the Messinian salinity crisis: Evidence of a non-desiccated Mediterranean Sea


Lugli et al


This research is focused on a complete reexamination of the evaporite facies present in all the cores that cut through the topmost deposits of the Messinian salinity crisis lying below the floor of the Mediterranean Sea (DSDP Legs 13 and 42A, ODP Legs 107 and 161). This review suggests that the uppermost evaporite units in both western and eastern deep Mediterranean basins consist mainly of clastic (gypsrudite, gypsarenite and gypsiltite) and fully subaqueous deposits (laminar gypsum, selenite and cumulate halite) that are partially affected by burial anhydritization and tectonic-induced recrystallization. No unequivocal evidence of shallow water or even supratidal (sabkha) deposition is in evidence, suggesting that at the very last phase of the salinity crisis the Mediterranean Sea did not experience desiccation, but that deposition took place under permanent subaqueous conditions.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ukraine War Update: песок смещение?

First off, the fighting continued on the ground at Shirokyne, Pisky, Popasna and Maryinka.  For now, the fiercest is Maryinka.

Secondly, there are reports of another attempted rally in Donetsk by the residents demanding an end to the war.  If accurately reported, this time they were dispersed by the DNR using armed men.  The DNR leader, Zakharchenko, is planning on banning the demonstrations outright. Combined with the renewed complaints by Donnie Reb that the Donbass locals don't want to join their army and fight Kiev, one has to wonder if the sand is shifting under the feet of the Russian Bear. I would like to see more supporting sources. last time there was a lot of videos uploaded to youtube. The lack of the same would hint this was just rumor rather than fact.

One of the volunteer battalions, Tornado, is in the process of being shut down. The reason is they have been looting, smuggling and killed civilians (a mother and daughter). Sveral volunteer soldiers were arrested and the rest given the chance to disperse. There were, as of the time of this writing, 170 members of Tornado holed up in their base and refusing to surrender. The UAF has threatened to storm the base if they do not. The lawyer for the first arrested men claims his clients were tortured.

There are reports of a new Russian spy plane having flown along the Ukrainian border.

Venus has Active Volcanoes

An international team of scientists has found some of the best evidence yet that Venus, Earth's nearest neighbor, is volcanically active.

In combing through data from the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission, the scientists found transient spikes in temperature at several spots on the planet's surface. The hotspots, which were found to flash and fade over the course of just a few days, appear to be generated by active flows of lava on the surface.

"We were able to show strong evidence that Venus is volcanically, and thus internally, active today," said James W. Head, a geologist at Brown University and co-author of a paper describing the new research. "This is a major finding that helps us understand the evolution of planets like our own."

The research is published online in Geophysical Research Letters.

The hotspots turned up in thermal imaging taken by the Venus Express spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera. The data showed spikes in temperature of several hundred degrees Fahrenheit in spots ranging in size from 1 square kilometer to over 200 kilometers.

The spots were clustered in a large rift zone called Ganiki Chasma. Rift zones are formed by stretching of the crust by internal forces and hot magma that rises toward the surface. Head and Russian colleague Mikhail Ivanov had previously mapped the region as part of a global geologic map of Venus generated from the Soviet Venera missions in the 1980s and U.S. Magellan mission in the 1990s. The mapping work had shown that Ganiki Chasma was quite young, geologically speaking, but just how young wasn't clear until now.

"We knew that Ganiki Chasma was the result of volcanism that had occurred fairly recently in geological terms, but we didn't know if it formed yesterday or was a billion years old," Head said. "The active anomalies detected by Venus Express fall exactly where we had mapped these relatively young deposits and suggest ongoing activity."

The latest finding is consistent with other data from Venus Express that have hinted at very recent volcanic activity. In 2010, infrared imaging from several volcanoes seemed to indicate lava flows from thousands to a few million years old. A few years later, scientists reported transient spikes in sulfur dioxide in Venus' upper atmosphere, another potential signal of active volcanism.

The observation of hotspots by Venus Express, combined with the geologic mapping from Venera and Magellan, make a strong case for a volcanically active Venus, Head says.

Color me Skeptical: Climate Model Suggests Mars Never had a Warm, Wet Period

The high seas of Mars may never have existed, according to a new study that looks at two opposite climate scenarios of early Mars and suggests that a cold and icy planet billions of years ago better explains water drainage and erosion features seen on the planet today.

For decades, researchers have debated the climate history of Mars and how the planet's early climate led to the many water-carved channels seen today. The idea that 3 to 4 billion years ago Mars was once warm, wet and Earth-like with a northern sea -- conditions that could have led to life -- is generally more popular than that of a frigid, icy planet where water is locked in ice most of the time and life would be hard put to evolve.

To see which early Mars better explains the modern features of the planet, researcher Robin Wordsworth of the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and his colleagues used a 3-dimensional atmospheric circulation model to compare a water cycle on Mars under different scenarios 3 to 4 billion years ago, during what's called the late Noachian and early Hesperian periods. One scenario looked at Mars as a warm and wet planet with an average global temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) and the other as a cold and icy world with an average global temperature of minus 48 degrees Celsius (minus 54 degrees Fahrenheit).

The study's authors found that the cold scenario was more likely to have occurred than the warm scenario, based on what is known about the history of the Sun and the tilt of Mars's axis 3 to 4 billion years ago. The cold model also did a better job explaining the water erosion features that have been left behind on the Martian surface, and which have puzzled and intrigued scientists since they were first discovered by the Viking orbiters in the 1970s.

A paper presenting the results has been accepted for publication in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets.

The colder scenario was more straightforward to model, Wordsworth explained, because Mars only gets 43 percent of the solar energy of Earth, and early Mars was lit by a younger Sun believed to have been 25 percent dimmer than it is today. That makes it very likely early Mars was cold and icy, he said.

An extreme tilt of the Martian axis would have pointed the planet's poles at the Sun and driven polar ice to the equator, where water drainage and erosion features are seen today. More importantly, under a thicker atmosphere that likely existed under the colder scenario, highland regions at the equator get colder and northern low-lying regions get warmer - the so-called 'icy highlands effect' that is responsible for making the peaks of mountains snow-covered on Earth today. Despite a number of warming factors - including a thicker atmosphere filled with climate-warming carbon dioxide -- Mars still would have been quite cold, Wordsworth added.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Лягушка в кляре

The fighting continues.  The Russians and the Donnie Rebs attacked Maryinka several times by infantry and armor supported by artillery.  Always at night, so it has been hard to tell exactly how many are involved.  Maryinka's sister city of Krasnohorivka  was also attacked in the same manner.  If ever there was a chance this was a distraction, this would be it.  I doubt it, but this is how you'd run an attack like that.  Make a big assault, draw back and then keep hitting the same spot in sufficient numbers to force the Ukrainians or trick the Ukrainians into concentrating.  Then swing around and encircle them.  The old cauldron trick.  

Artillery has ripped up the contact line from Lugansk all the way south to Maryinka.  Shyrokino keeps getting pounded on as well.

There is a large gap though which is interesting largely between Maryinka and Shyrokino where the artillery is not falling, at least in the last 24 hours.  Equally interesting are the reports of massed armor on the other side of the gap.  Pull the Ukrainian reserves to fights away from where you intend to attack and...punch on through.  At least you're only facing whatever is on the contact line, not reinforcements.  Might mean something.  Might not.

Interestingly, also in Donetsk proper, Gorlovka (Hirlivka) and Stakhanov there seems to be small arms firing.  In the last on the list, Stakhanov, there seems to be explosions from the same area as where the small arms firing seems to be taking place.  There are no UAF troops there.  Could it be another Donnie Reb unit being rounded up or wiped out?  Or...?

It seems the economic crush in the DNR has gotten worse: there's no publicly available gasoline in Donetsk.

While I recommend reading anything Bershidsky with a serious grain of salt, this article portrays a lot of what I have harped on about Russians and Putin.