Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cali-Texan Hybrid Salamander Super Predator

A and B are the largest of the native california tiger salamanders. Note D is the hybrid. Holy shibbit. Picture from National Geographic.

Invasive hybrid tiger salamander genotypes impact native amphibians

1. Maureen E. Ryan (a,1)
2. Jarrett R. Johnson (a)
3. Benjamin M. Fitzpatrick (b)

a. Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616; and
b. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996


Although the ecological consequences of species invasions are well studied, the ecological impacts of genetic introgression through hybridization are less understood. This is particularly true of the impacts of hybridization on “third party” community members not genetically involved in hybridization. We also know little about how direct interactions between hybrid and parental individuals influence fitness. Here, we examined the ecological effects of hybridization between the native, threatened California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense) and the introduced Barred Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum mavortium). Native x introduced hybrids are widespread in California, where they are top predators in seasonal ponds. We examined the impacts of early generation hybrids (first 2 generations of parental crosses) and contemporary hybrids derived from ponds where hybrids have been under selection in the wild for 20 generations. We found that most classes of hybrid tiger salamander larvae dramatically reduced survival of 2 native community members, the Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla) and the California Newt (Taricha torosa). We also found that native A. californiense larvae were negatively impacted by the presence of hybrid larvae: Native survival and size at metamorphosis were reduced and time to metamorphosis was extended. We also observed a large influence of Mendelian dominance on size, metamorphic timing and predation rate of hybrid tiger salamanders. These results suggest that both genetic and ecological factors are likely to influence the dynamics of admixture, and that tiger salamander hybridization might constitute a threat to additional pond-breeding species of concern in the region.

1. To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: meryan@ucdavis.edu

I think this goes beyond introgression. That there is such a huge difference in phenotype is just amazing.

Uranium Found On the Moon

Hey James! A whole new reason to go to the moon that's not Helium-3!

So what's the going rate for Uranium ore?

Hadrosaur Tooth Wear Patterns Reveal Chewing Methodology

Microscopic analysis of scratches on dinosaur teeth has helped scientists unravel an ancient riddle of what a major group of dinosaurs ate- and exactly how they did it!

Now for the first time, a study led by the University of Leicester, has found evidence that the duck-billed dinosaurs- the Hadrosaurs- in fact had a unique way of eating, unlike any living creature today.

Working with researchers from the Natural History Museum, the study uses a new approach to analyse the feeding mechanisms of dinosaurs and understand their place in the ecosystems of tens of millions of years ago. The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Palaeontologist Mark Purnell of the University of Leicester Department of Geology, who led the research, said: "For millions of years, until their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, duck-billed dinosaurs – or hadrosaurs - were the World's dominant herbivores. They must have been able to break down their food somehow, but without the complex jaw joint of mammals they would not have been able to chew in the same way, and it is difficult to work out how they ate. It is also unclear what they ate: they might have been grazers, cropping vegetation close to the ground - like today's cows and sheep - or browsers, eating leaves and twigs - more like deer or giraffes. Not knowing the answers to these questions makes it difficult to understand Late Cretaceous ecosystems and how they were affected during the major extinction event 65 million years ago.

"Our study uses a new approach based on analysis of the microscopic scratches that formed on hadrosaur's teeth as they fed, tens of millions of years ago. The scratches have been preserved intact since the animals died. They can tell us precisely how hadrosaur jaws moved, and the kind of food these huge herbivores ate, but nobody has tried to analyse them before."

The researchers say that the scratches reveal that the movements of hadrosaur teeth were complex and involved up and down, sideways and front to back motion. According to Paul Barrett palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum "this shows that hadrosaurs did chew, but in a completely different way to anything alive today. Rather than a flexible lower jaw joint, they had a hinge between the upper jaws and the rest of the skull. As they bit down on their food the upper jaws were forced outwards, flexing along this hinge so that the tooth surfaces slid sideways across each other, grinding and shredding food in the process".

The scratch patterns provide confirmation of a theory of hadrosaur chewing first proposed 25 years ago, and provides new insights into their ecology, say the researchers.

The research also sheds light on what the dinosaurs ate. Vince Williams of the University of Leicester said: "Although the first grasses had evolved by the Late Cretaceous they were not common and it is most unlikely that grasses formed a major component of hadrosaur diets. We can tell from the scratches that the hadrosaur's food either contained small particles of grit, normal for vegetation cropped close to the ground, or, like grass, contained microscopic granules of silica. We know that horsetails were a common plant at the time and have this characteristic; they may well have been an important food for hadrosaurs".

Has anyone done this for ceratopsians?

Quantitative analysis of dental microwear in hadrosaurid dinosaurs, and the implications for hypotheses of jaw mechanics and feeding

1. Vincent S. Williams (a),
2. Paul M. Barrett (b)
3. Mark A. Purnell (a,1)

a. Department of Geology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, United Kingdom;
b. Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom


Understanding the feeding mechanisms and diet of nonavian dinosaurs is fundamental to understanding the paleobiology of these taxa and their role in Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystems. Various methods, including biomechanical analysis and 3D computer modeling, have been used to generate detailed functional hypotheses, but in the absence of either direct observations of dinosaur feeding behavior, or close living functional analogues, testing these hypotheses is problematic. Microscopic scratches that form on teeth in vivo during feeding are known to record the relative motion of the tooth rows to each other during feeding and to capture evidence of tooth–food interactions. Analysis of this dental microwear provides a powerful tool for testing hypotheses of jaw mechanics, diet, and trophic niche; yet, quantitative analysis of microwear in dinosaurs has not been attempted. Here, we show that analysis of tooth microwear orientation provides direct evidence for the relative motions of jaws during feeding in hadrosaurid ornithopods, the dominant terrestrial herbivores of the Late Cretaceous. Statistical testing demonstrates that Edmontosaurus teeth preserve 4 distinct sets of scratches in different orientations. In terms of jaw mechanics, these data indicate an isognathic, near-vertical posterodorsal power stroke during feeding; near-vertical jaw opening; and propalinal movements in near anterior and near posterior directions. Our analysis supports the presence of a pleurokinetic hinge, and the straightness and parallelism of scratches indicate a tightly controlled occlusion. The dominance of scratched microwear fabrics suggests that Edmontosaurus was a grazer rather than a browser.

1. To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mark.purnell@le.ac.uk

Link to paper

Monday, June 29, 2009

French Make Agreement For Phobos-Grunt

French space agency CNES and the Russian Space Agency have come to an agreement that will allow CNES to receive soil samples from the Phobos-Grunt mission.

Due to lift off in October, the mission will return samples from the Martian moon Phobos, characterize the physical and chemical properties of the moon in-situ, and study ionization and solar wind effects in the Martian atmosphere.

The French agency is supplying several subsystems for the Phobos-Grunt gas analytic package, which was developed by the Moscow Institute for Space Research IKI. The subsystems are the gas chromatograph, designed by the Latmos lab for the French national science center CNRS, and the tunable diode laser spectrometer (TDLAS).

China is supplying four instruments on a Martian orbiter - Yinghuo-1 - that will be part of the mission, and the European Space Agency is providing support with its deep space radar network.

Let's hope the Galactic Ghoul doesn't eat this one!

PG up there definitely has a Russian/Soviet space probe style to it.

Russia Proposes New Security Pact to Defang NATO

...but the West isn't buying it!

"We don't need a new structure. We have many at our disposal -- U.N., EU, OSCE, Council of Europe. We have the principles, we have the structures, let's strengthen them," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters.

The ministerial meeting of the OSCE grouping European nations, the United States and Canada, took place against a backdrop of tension between the West and Russia over Georgia.

Moscow, for its part, is concerned at NATO expansion, possibly into former Soviet territory and U.S. plans for a missile shield in central Europe.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Cold War-era institutions like NATO are unable to ease friction in a multipolar world. "Security can be either common or illusory," his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said last week.

Medvedev's proposed Treaty on European Security would grant equal status to participating countries, rule out military alliances adopting policies detrimental to the security of the other parties, and deny any country or alliance the right to maintain peace and stability on the continent.

That last sounds exactly like a way to try to dismantle NATO. huh. No wonder they aren't biting. Oh, the OSCE and Russia haven't had a terribly good time with one another either over Georgia.

DARPA Acknowledges COTS Dead for HPC

If you can squish all the processing power of say an IBM Roadrunner supercomputer inside a 19-inch box and make it run on about 60 kilowatts of electricity, the government wants to talk to you.

The extreme scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency this week issued a call for research that might develop a super-small, super-efficient super beast of a computer.

Specifically DARPA's Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) desires will require:

-New system-wide technology approaches specifically including hardware and software co-design to minimize energy dissipation per operation and maximize energy efficiency, with a 50GFLOPS per watt goal, without sacrificing scalability to ultra-high performance DoD applications - efficiency.

-New technologies and execution models that do not require application programmers to explicitly manage system complexity, in terms of architectural attributes with respect to data locality and concurrency, to achieve their performance and time to solution goals - programmability.

-Technology that will manage hardware and software concurrency, minimizing overhead for thousand- to billion-way parallelism for the system-level programmer.

-A system-wide approach to achieve reliability and security through fault management techniques enabling an application to execute correctly through both failures and attacks.

Current processing systems are grossly power-inefficient and typically deliver only a small fraction of peak performance. Until recently, advances in Commercial Off-The-Shelf systems performances were enabled by increases in clock speed, decreases in supply voltage, and growth in transistor count. These technology trends have reached a performance wall where increasing clock speed results in unacceptably large power increases, and decreasing voltage causes increasing susceptibility to transient and permanent errors, DARPA stated.

Finally. Rant later.

Reading Update (waaay overdue)

I am actually a little shocked when I was looking back through the blog at what I had written and realized I hadn't updated the reading/read list since January. Six months?! Oh geez. I have a lot read even with the much slower pace.

I am currently reading two books. The first is Splendid Isolation about South America's Cenozoic mammals. It's a good read but feels dated. Given its age, that shouldn't be a surprise. Is there a more updated treatise on the subject? I am also reading The Medea Hypothesis. I am holding my cards close to my chest on this one until I am done.

In the recent past, I read Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History. I didn't realize that dogs were a North American lineage (along with horses and camels). The Old World equivalent was the hyena. Which dogs are now pummeling. Continuing the paleo theme, I also read In the Shadow of the Dinosaurs. I didn't realize there was an aquatic sphenodont: tuatara relative for the rest of you. I also read The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs. It's interesting to see the intellectual debate raging on back then: competition vs mass extinction opportunism.

I also read The World Without Us and found it underwhelming. Better was The Earth After Us. It was a little too short of discussing what would survive in the strata over time in favor of explaining the mechanics of how geology works. A bit of a bummer. Seems like we need a next step higher: a "yeah we get the basics big time, but we're not quite pros yet" level.

I read Solar Sails and found the last third to be the best part since it was the actual juicy technical part. I still like Starsailing better, but Starsailing lacks a lot of the guts of the last 1/3 of Solar Sails.

Much to my great pissy annoyance, my copy of Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs disappeared part way through. I also read History of the Persian Empire. Wow. Talk about being written in a completely different era. I picked up a copy of Byzantine Infantryman, but not read it yet. Intended as a bit of background for my writing. I am waiting for a copy of The Great Arab Conquests.

I also have the Long Thaw, Principles of Paleoclimatology, Fire and Ice, and An Introduction to Celestrial Mechanics. I also haven't finished Russia's Far East.

Anyways, I'll comment on The Medea Hypothesis. I'm only in a small way and I am already getting "hmmmm" bits. Oh yes, and the number of books may sound like a nontrivial amount, but its not. Prior to marriage, I was reading 3600+ pages per month, which translates into around ten to fifteen books per month. What I read up there is probably about that much over six months.

Las Cruces, New Mexico Restaurants to Eat at and I Miss

While I have developed some tastes that are different from my days in southern New Mexico, I keep coming back to what I used to eat there and what I truly miss. I had a conversation lately with a friend while at work that made me think about how back a bit, Julia was looking for restaurants in Las Cruces when she was roadtripping across the US, so why not put up a post for places I liked for people to reference if they are passing through. My Las Crucen friends can correct me or add some as well. So I went to Yelp for help: yep, I've got some Cali influences after all this time out here...finally...

If you are in southern New Mexico, you ought to be going to a NMican restaurant. Honestly, the Mesilla Valley cooking style is pretty unique and you ought to be munching on that rather than what you can get elsewhere. There were several places I loved there for that. First off is Nellie's, but it's really pretty close to a hole in the wall and the source of my most infamous story. It's mostly a lunch place though as I recall: Litlte Nellie's I liked a bit better, but it faded into history even befire I left LC. Next up is Si Senior's. It has a nice atmosphere, but the food wasn't as good as Nellie's. In Mesilla, rather than LC proper, is La Posta. I liked going there quite a bit. The food was good and the atmosphere good, too. Now, outside of LC altogether, but a must visit is Chope's. Really. Get a rellano. mmmmm. (Old Man Chope damn near ran southern NM about a century ago, but anyways...) It can have a wait to get a table though, so just be warned.

If you are feeling that you want something else and are in the Las Cruces, then may I suggest either Greek (Tiffany's, unpretentious and the owner is a very friendly man. The helpings are fscking HUGE and the pizza is killer. Esp if you are Jason Lowery's lower intestine). There's also International Delights. More general med, but attached to a store. I used to get Turkish Delight there, a serious weakness, it is. If you like Italian, Lorenzo's used to be very good, but I've been hearing reports that things are not well in my old waitress oggling haunt: Vince! How could you let it go!

If you are looking for asian cuisine, alas, Tatsu is dead (japanese), but the owners started up Aqua Reef. They used to own Mix. I wasn't as impressed with it though: asian fusion, but...eh. I used to get chinese at Dynasty, but solitary review is rather frightening: however, back when, the Mu Hsu pork was awesome. For thai, there's Lemongrass. It was good, but a bit spendy, as I recall. I've had better Thai out here at smaller, less impressive places, but Thai folks were not as common in LC when I was there.

For coffee shops, if you are looking for a cup, I'd recommend Milagro and Red Mountain Cafe. I used to buy gifts for my coffee addict (!!!) sister and get Paninni's at Milagro. RMC I used to grab a bite before movies and when hanging with Rahrah. (wow, not said that name in a long time).

For a good burger, Guacamole's was quite good. For a deli, DG's used to be excellent, but it was sold just before I left and the quality declined. It sounds like its been sold once more, so I have no idea how good it is these days. They all used to be paired with the Brown Bag Deli's in town and owned by the same guy. He sold them off just prior to me going to college and he just supplied the meat and whatnot to them. They stayed very good until around 2000...then ugh. The funny part is Thumann's Meats were the ones that were the suppliers...and I just saw their brand meat for sale at one of my favourite grocery stores here in the Bay. Tried their stuff and it was as good as I remembered.

(as an aside, BB just opened a second location...not been there yet, but its supposed to be bigger and just as good)

For slightly nicer dining, I used to like Cattle Baron's. By the snobbish standards of the SF Bay area, not that nice a place. However, I think its a wonderful place. I used to love their teriyaki steak with the creamed horse radish. As good as it gets, at least in my experience, in LC was the Double Eagle. I can count on a very low number of fingers the number of times I went there though. lol.

We will take a moment of silence for the places that I miss that have passed on.

Little Nellie's (new mexican)...

Tatsu (japanese)...

The Med Cafe (mediterrainean)...

Casbah (morrocan)...

Brass Cactus Bistro (ummm...)

and the greatest loss of them (well, LN was a huge hit, but it happened the year before I left):

O'Ryan's. A pub that had the genius dish of frilies: breaded and fried green chile. Damn that was good. They also had some seriously good burgers and fried mushrooms and nachos and a frak load more. That was a huge hit. I wanted to take Lyuda there when we came way back, but...apparently it was sold to someone else and they promptly ran it into the ground. *sighs* That was after I left though.

I've seen it a couple times out here: there seems to have been a New Mexican restaurant in San Francisco that opened recently. I really ought to see what portion of NM they are taking their cuisine from. Probably up north, but...we can see. We can see. I better not have tamed it for the weak Cali palettes! Yelp hints its NM inspired rather than NMican. grr. I hope that they at least don't put rice in the burritos. bah, mission style. ;)

Yale Makes First Quantum Processor?

(the Yale two qubit solid state quantum processor)

A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature's advanced online publication June 28.

"Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons," said Robert Schoelkopf, the William A. Norton Professor of Applied Physics & Physics at Yale. "But this is the first time they've been possible in an all-electronic device that looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor."

Working with a group of theoretical physicists led by Steven Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics & Applied Physics, the team manufactured two artificial atoms, or qubits ("quantum bits"). While each qubit is actually made up of a billion aluminum atoms, it acts like a single atom that can occupy two different energy states. These states are akin to the "1" and "0" or "on" and "off" states of regular bits employed by conventional computers. Because of the counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics, however, scientists can effectively place qubits in a "superposition" of multiple states at the same time, allowing for greater information storage and processing power.

So is this one real or not? I suspect that it is - their claims are very modest - but we'll see.

We're oh-so-waiting for this one in the HPC realm. We seriously need a fundamental processor shift.

Obama Opposes a Carbon Tariff

President Barack Obama on Sunday called a House-passed climate change bill "an extraordinary first step," but spoke out against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals," Obama said in an Oval Office interview reported by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

"I think there may be other ways of doing it than with a tariff approach," Obama said.

The Democratic-controlled House on Friday passed the climate change bill that would require large U.S. companies, including utilities and manufacturers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.

No, no, no, and,umm, no.

This climate bill, in fact any climate bill, while necessary will end up costing US business a nontrivial amount. All you have to do is compare the energy consumption and the type of energy consumption and you will see where it'll hurt in detail. My wife did a pretty good paper on this a while back. Two years ago? I think? The only way to balance this out - because, y'know, the Chinese and others, but especially the Chinese, are not going to do a single thing about their carbon emissions - is to impose a 'carbon tariff.'

That Obama opposes it is disheartening. Sure, let's raise the costs for US businesses, but not others.


FWIW, I whole heartedly support a climate bill. I prefer the carbon tax rather than cap and trade, but...eh. Either way carbon emission reductions need to be done. And soon. No matter what, we are getting a climate change. Now its just a question of how drastic. We have the power to curtail and mitigate the looming desicated polar bear, but only if the whole world does this. China and India have to be on board too...or else we are fscked. Tech development is a good way: our newest green revolution, but that will take time. Time we may do not have.

Friday, June 26, 2009

That Australian Megafauna Overkill Paper

Extinction implications of a chenopod browse diet for a giant Pleistocene kangaroo

1. Gavin J. Prideaux (a,1)
2. Linda K. Ayliffeb (c)
3. Larisa R. G. DeSantis (d)
4. Blaine W. Schubert (e)
5. Peter F. Murray (f)
6. Michael K. Gagan (c)
7. Thure E. Cerling (b)

a School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, Bedford Park, South Australia 5042, Australia;

b Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112;

c Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia;

d Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611;

e Department of Geosciences and Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614; and

f Museum of Central Australia, Alice Springs, Northern Territory 0871, Australia


Kangaroos are the world's most diverse group of herbivorous marsupials. Following late-Miocene intensification of aridity and seasonality, they radiated across Australia, becoming the continent's ecological equivalents of the artiodactyl ungulates elsewhere. Their diversity peaked during the Pleistocene, but by approximately 45,000 years ago, 90% of larger kangaroos were extinct, along with a range of other giant species. Resolving whether climate change or human arrival was the principal extinction cause remains highly contentious. Here we combine craniodental morphology, stable-isotopic, and dental microwear data to reveal that the largest-ever kangaroo, Procoptodon goliah, was a chenopod browse specialist, which may have had a preference for Atriplex (saltbushes), one of a few dicots using the C4 photosynthetic pathway. Furthermore, oxygen isotope signatures of P. goliah tooth enamel show that it drank more in low-rainfall areas than its grazing contemporaries, similar to modern saltbush feeders. Saltbushes and chenopod shrublands in general are poorly flammable, so landscape burning by humans is unlikely to have caused a reduction in fodder driving the species to extinction. Aridity is discounted as a primary cause because P. goliah evolved in response to increased aridity and disappeared during an interval wetter than many it survived earlier. Hunting by humans, who were also bound to water, may have been a more decisive factor in the extinction of this giant marsupial.

This is the paper that I linked about earlier.

Past Climate Change Not Linked to Sun's Galactic Position

Testing the link between terrestrial climate change and Galactic spiral structure

Adrian L. Melott, Andrew C. Overholt (University of Kansas), Martin K. Pohl (Iowa State University)


We confront past suggestions of a close link between terrestrial climate change and the Sun's transit of spiral arms in its path through the Milky Way galaxy. These links produced concrete fits, deriving the unknown spiral pattern speed from terrestrial climate correlations. We use new information on spiral structure based on CO data that does not make simplifying assumptions about symmetry and circular rotation. Comparing the times of these transits to changes in the climate of Earth, not only do the claimed correlations disappear, but also we find that they cannot be resurrected for any reasonable pattern speed.

Also covered at Universe Today and Physics arXiv blog.

Reminder: Bone Yard Alert! July 12, 2009!

Just a reminder. There will be a bone yard hosted here on the The Dragon's Tales on July 12th. If at all possible, I'd like to have as much original content and not just the regular link harvesting. I know there are a bunch of you paleo types reading this, soooo...hop to it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sondrestrom Glacier in Greenland

Nickel Isotope Gives Hints to Very Early Microbes

A biomarker based on the stable isotopes of nickel

1. Vyllinniskii Camerona (a,b)
2. Derek Vance (b)
3. Corey Archer (b)
4. Christopher H. House (a)

a Department of Geosciences and Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802; and

b Bristol Isotope Group, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, United Kingdom


The new stable isotope systems of transition metals are increasingly used to understand and quantify the impact of primitive microbial metabolisms on the modern and ancient Earth. To date, little effort has been expended on nickel (Ni) isotopes but there are good reasons to believe that this system may be more straightforward, and useful in this respect, than some others. Here, we present Ni stable isotope data for abiotic terrestrial samples and pure cultures of methanogens. The dataset for rocks reveals little isotopic variability and provides a lithologic baseline for terrestrial Ni isotope studies. In contrast, methanogens assimilate the light isotopes, yielding residual media with a complementary heavy isotopic enrichment. Methanogenesis may have evolved during or before the Archean, when methane could have been key to Earth's early systems. Our data suggest significant potential in Ni stable isotopes for identifying and quantifying methanogenesis on the early planet. Additionally, Ni stable isotope fractionation may well prove to be the fundamental unambiguous trace metal biomarker for methanogens.



ISS caught it.

UK Puts Out Their Own Graphics For Climate Change

Summer Temperature in Increase (middle case) in degrees C.

Summer Precipitation Decrease in percent (middle case again).

Winter precipitation change in percent (middle case).

The Brits also have the error bar book end scenarios up at the page as well. Climate Feedback has some criticism of the above, fwiw. However, on the heels of me posting up about Mike's work for the a similar report for the US, - and the rest of NorAm, cuz it's the auxiliary US, really, these days *just kidding* - I thought I'd better put up the UK version. I know other countries are putting up theirs as well and I'll link to them as they come available (and I am made aware of them).

New Top 500 List

1 Los Alamos National Laboratory
United States Roadrunner (IBM Cell + Opteron System)

2 Oak Ridge National Laboratory
United States Jaguar (Cray XT5)

3 Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ)
Germany JUGENE (IBM Blue Gene/P Solution)

4 NASA/Ames Research Center/NAS
United States Pleiades (SGI Altix)

5 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
United States BlueGene/L (IBM Blue Gene)

6 National Institute for Computational Sciences/University of Tennessee
United States Kraken (Cray XT5)

7 Argonne National Laboratory
United States (IBM Blue Gene/P)

8 Texas Advanced Computing Center/Univ. of Texas
United States Ranger (SunBlade x6420, Opteron)

9 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
United States Dawn (IBM Blue Gene/P)

10 Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ)
Germany JUROPA (Bull Sun Constellation)

And we fell to #11 despite our big upgrade and acceptence we just did. Ah well.

(where did the freakin GERMANS come from?! They're making the Japanese look bad!!!)

(oh and sorry about the delay)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Australian Megafauna Overkill Hypothesis Gains Evidence

A fossil study of the extinct giant kangaroo has added weight to the theory that humans were responsible for the demise of "megafauna" 46,000 years ago.

The decline of plants through widespread fire or changes toward an arid climate have also played into the debate about the animals' demise.

But an analysis of kangaroo fossils suggested they ate saltbush, which would have thrived in those conditions.

The research is in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There has long been dissent in the palaeontology community about the cause for extinctions worldwide after the end of the last ice age.

Central to the debate has been the demise of the Australian megafauna, including animals such as marsupial lions, hippopotamus-sized wombats and the 2m-tall giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah.

Last year, researchers dated fossils from Tasmania with the best precision yet, finding that many species survived more than 2,000 years after the arrival of humans.

The researchers concluded that the megafauna eventually met their end due to hunting.

Now, researchers from Australia and the US have combined radiocarbon dating with a so-called microwear analysis of the teeth of P. goliah to determine what it ate and drank.

Different sources of water and food leave trace amounts of particular types, or isotopes, of hydrogen and carbon atoms, which are deposited in the teeth like a recorded diet.

Additionally, tiny patterns of wear give clues about the type of food a given creature chewed.

The team concluded that the giant kangaroos fed mainly on saltbush shrubs.

Because fire does not propagate well among saltbush, and because it thrives in a dry, arid climate, the case supporting two of the three potential causes for extinction was weakened.

I'm a firm supporter of the 6th Mass Extinction (somewhat misnamed) being largely anthropogenic. It's a post in the works, but it'll be months before it gets to see the light of the blogosphere.

The Paleocene Emergence of Proboscidea

Paleocene emergence of elephant relatives and the rapid radiation of African ungulates

1. Emmanuel Gheerbrant

Unité Mixte de Recherche 7207, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre de Recherches sur la Paléobiodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements, Case 38, Département Histoire de la Terre, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 8, Rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France


Elephants are the only living representatives of the Proboscidea, a formerly diverse mammalian order whose history began with the 55-million years (mys) old Phosphatherium. Reported here is the discovery from the early late Paleocene of Morocco, ca. 60 mys, of the oldest and most primitive elephant relative, Eritherium azzouzorum n.g., n.sp., which is one of the earliest known representatives of modern placental orders. This well supported stem proboscidean is extraordinarily primitive and condylarth-like. It provides the first dental evidence of a resemblance between the proboscideans and African ungulates (paenungulates) on the one hand and the louisinines and early macroscelideans on the other. Eritherium illustrates the origin of the elephant order at a previously unknown primitive stage among paenungulates and “ungulates.” The primitive morphology of Eritherium suggests a recent and rapid paenungulate radiation after the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, probably favoured by early endemic African paleoecosystems. At a broader scale, Eritherium provides a new old calibration point of the placental tree and supports an explosive placental radiation. The Ouled Abdoun basin, which yields the oldest known African placentals, is a key locality for elucidating phylogeny and early evolution of paenungulates and other related endemic African lineages.

Interesting, interesting.

I'm reading Splendid Isolation right now and I have a few questions on Ungulate evolution...this is just adding to it. More later.

Brain Evolution in Primates (thanx to a plesiadapiform)

Virtual endocast of Ignacius graybullianus (Paromomyidae, Primates) and brain evolution in early primates

1. Mary T. Silcox (a)
2. Claire K. Dalmyn (b)
3. Jonathan I. Bloch (c)

a Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9, Canada;
b Department of Social Anthropology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON, M3J 1P3, Canada;
c Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, P. O. Box 117800, Gainesville, FL 32611


Extant primates are distinctive among mammals in having relatively large brains. As stem primates, Paleogene plesiadapiforms provide direct information relevant to the earliest stages in the evolution of this characteristic. Here we describe a virtual endocast reconstructed from ultra high resolution X-ray computed tomography data for the paromomyid plesiadapiform Ignacius graybullianus (USNM 421608) from the early Eocene of Wyoming. This represents the most complete endocast known for a stem primate, allowing for an unprecedented study of both size and fine details of anatomy. Relative to fossil and extant euprimates, I. graybullianus had large olfactory lobes, but less caudal development of the cerebrum and a poorly demarcated temporal lobe, suggesting more emphasis on olfaction and a less well developed visual system. Although its brain was small compared to those of extant primates, the encephalization quotient of I. graybullianus is higher than that calculated for Paleocene Plesiadapis cookei and overlaps the lower portion of the range documented for fossil euprimates. Comparison to the basal gliroid Rhombomylus suggests that early primates exhibited some expansion of the cerebrum compared to their ancestors. The relatively small brain size of I. graybullianus, an arboreal frugivore, implies that neither arboreality nor frugivory was primarily responsible for the expanded brains of modern primates. However, the contrasts in features related to the visual system between I. graybullianus and fossil and extant euprimates suggest that improvements to these portions of the brain contributed to increases in brain size within Euprimates.

No time to comment...blast it. I'll be reading this later today.

Global Potential for Wind-generated Electricity

1. Xi Lua, (a)
2. Michael B. McElroya, (b) and
3. Juha Kiviluomac (c)

a School of Engineering and Applied Science, Cruft Lab 211, and
b Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 100E Peirce Hall, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 0213
c VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P. O. Box 1000, 02044 VTT, Finland


The potential of wind power as a global source of electricity is assessed by using winds derived through assimilation of data from a variety of meteorological sources. The analysis indicates that a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >5 times total global use of energy in all forms. Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States. Estimates are given also for quantities of electricity that could be obtained by using a network of 3.6-MW turbines deployed in ocean waters with depths [less than] 200 m within 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) of closest coastlines.

Link at the top as always.

Is this related to what you were looking at, Noel?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SC09: Birds of A Feather Proposal Submission Site

Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions (BOFs)

Submissions are invited for BOF sessions, which allow conference attendees to discuss topics of mutual interest.

We are seeking:

* Sessions that result in informal group discussion on any topic related to supercomputing
* Sessions targeted to start building new communities related to Supercomputing areas are also very welcome

As an example, here is a list of topics that worked well as BOFs last year:

  • Systems (e.g. Ranger, Roadrunner), Product Lines (e.g. BlueGene, Altix, Cell), and Architectures (e.g. clusters, grids)
  • Software Packages (e.g. MPICH, OSCAR, PBS, Rocks, TotalView)
  • Lists and Competitions (e.g. Top500, Green 500, HPC Challenge)
  • Languages and Programming Models (e.g. OpenMP, MPI, PGAS)
  • Government Initiatives and Groups (e.g. NITRD, grant policy, NSF HECURA) Future of HPC (e.g. pathways to the future, trends)

Please keep in mind that BOFs are not intended for commercial presentations, but for technical ones. Sessions where a particular system, environment, architecture, tool, etc. is presented will also be considered, as long as it is of interest to a broad cross-section of SC09 attendees.

Sessions will be 60 or 90 minutes long. The format within the session is free for the organizer to define.

SC09 will provide meeting room facilities and post daily schedules of the approved BOFs, which are open to all conference attendees, including exhibitors and exhibits-only badge holders.

Submissions open on March 16th, 2009. Visit https://submissions.supercomputing.org/ to make a submission. Submission will close on July 27th.

Questions: bofs@info.supercomputing.org

Industry is gearing up again. Not sure whether or not I will be going. The timing is challenging with the LLC.

CO2 Linked to TJ Extinction

Scientists have unearthed striking evidence for a sudden ancient collapse in plant biodiversity. A trove of 200 million-year-old fossil leaves collected in East Greenland tells the story, carrying its message across time to us today.

Results of the research appear in this week's issue of the journal Science.

The researchers were surprised to find that a likely candidate responsible for the loss of plant life was a small rise in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which caused Earth's temperature to rise.

Global warming has long been considered as the culprit for extinctions--the surprise is that much less carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere may be needed to drive an ecosystem beyond its tipping point than previously thought.

"Earth's deep time climate history reveals startling discoveries that shake the foundations of our knowledge and understanding of climate change in modern times," says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Earth Sciences, which partially funded the research.

Jennifer McElwain of University College Dublin, the paper's lead author, cautions that sulfur dioxide from extensive volcanic emissions may also have played a role in driving the plant extinctions.

"We have no current way of detecting changes in sulfur dioxide in the past, so it's difficult to evaluate whether sulfur dioxide, in addition to a rise in carbon dioxide, influenced this pattern of extinction," says McElwain.

The time interval under study, at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic periods, has long been known for its plant and animal extinctions.


The paper, "Fossil Plant Relative Abundances Indicate Sudden Loss of Late Triassic Biodiversity in East Greenland," was co-authored by McElwain, Wagner and Stephen Hesselbo of the University of Oxford in the U.K.

Paper, Please!

This is sounding more and more like the Permian Extinction Model. I'll write more as I have time. I still need to write up Dr Wignall's Guadelupean Mass Extinction paper. Oy.

Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Get Gov Dev Loans

The Energy Department said Tuesday it would lend $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co. and provide about $2.1 billion in loans to Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc., making the three automakers the first beneficiaries of a $25 billion fund to develop fuel-efficient vehicles.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the loan recipients at Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn. The loans to Ford will help the company upgrade factories in five Midwest states to produce 13 fuel-efficient vehicles.

Nissan was receiving $1.6 billion to retool its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to build advanced vehicles and build a battery manufacturing facility. Tesla would get $465 million in loans to build electric vehicles and electric drive powertrains in California.

I have to wonder if Tesla is on the slow climb into becoming one of the big auto producers in the country. I have to admit that I am a little surprised that Nissan got the loan though. Not really objecting, just surprised.

Indonesia's Uber Sized Pachyderm Fossil

Indonesian scientists are reconstructing the largest, most complete skeleton of a prehistoric giant elephant ever found in the tropics, a finding that may offer new clues into the largely mysterious origins of its modern Asian cousin.

The prehistoric elephant is believed to have been submerged in quicksand shortly after dying on a riverbed in Java around 200,000 years ago. Its bones — almost perfectly preserved — were discovered by chance in March when an old sand quarry collapsed during monsoon rains.

The animal stood four meters (13-feet) tall, five meters (16-feet) long and weighed more than 10 tons — closer in size to the woolly mammoth of the same period than to the great Asian mammals now on Earth.

Animal fossils are rare in the humid, hot climate of the equator because decomposition occurs extremely quickly.

Following a monthlong excavation, a team of seven paleontologists from the Geology Museum in Bandung, West Java, set the bones in plaster for the trip back to their office where they will be laboriously pieced back together.

"We believe from the shape of its teeth that it was a very primitive elephant," but little else has been verified, said paleontologist Fachroel Aziz, who is heading a 12-strong skeletal reconstruction team.

Another branch on the pachyderm family tree?

Peru's Own Petrified Forest...with a view!

The fossilized remains of a South American forest buried by volcanic ash are providing scientists with a detailed look at a tropical forest ecosystem from millions of years ago.

The petrified forest, known as El Bosque Petrificado Piedra Chamana, covers a 1-by-0.5-kilometer area in northwestern Peru, Deborah Woodcock, a paleoclimatologist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and her colleagues report in the July-August GSA Bulletin. Fossils at the site include both large tree trunks and leaves — a rarity for low-latitude forests, since tropical heat dramatically accelerates the decomposition of organic matter. Analyses of leaf size and shape hint that the average annual temperature at the site around 39.4 million years ago, when the forest was growing, was above 25° Celsius.

Some of the fossils are 1-meter-tall stumps, still standing upright with their petrified roots preserved in the ancient, now-solidified soil. Many of the other fossils are logs that lie oriented along a northwest-southeast direction. Together, these data suggest that the forest was buried waist-deep in volcanic ash from a nearby eruption and then smothered by a flow of ash that snapped the trees off and entombed them, Woodcock says.


Monday, June 22, 2009

More DIno Tracks Found in Yemen

Jurassic theropods and maybe sauropods are present.

Ice Sheets Can Retreat Very, Very Fast

Modern glaciers, such as those making up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are capable of undergoing periods of rapid shrinkage or retreat, according to new findings by paleoclimatologists at the University at Buffalo.

The paper, published on June 21 in Nature Geoscience, describes fieldwork demonstrating that a prehistoric glacier in the Canadian Arctic rapidly retreated in just a few hundred years.

The proof of such rapid retreat of ice sheets provides one of the few explicit confirmations that this phenomenon occurs.

Should the same conditions recur today, which the UB scientists say is very possible, they would result in sharply rising global sea levels, which would threaten coastal populations.

"A lot of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are characteristic of the one we studied in the Canadian Arctic," said Jason Briner, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and lead author on the paper. "Based on our findings, they, too, could retreat in a geologic instant."

The new findings will allow scientists to more accurately predict how global warming will affect ice sheets and the potential for rising sea levels in the future, by developing more robust climate and ice sheet models.

Briner said the findings are especially relevant to the Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland's largest and fastest moving tidewater glacier, which is retreating under conditions similar to those he studied in the Canadian Arctic.

Acting like glacial conveyor belts, tidewater glaciers are the primary mechanism for draining ice sheet interiors by delivering icebergs to the ocean.

"These 'iceberg factories' exhibit rapid fluctuations in speed and position, but predicting how quickly they will retreat as a result of global warming is very challenging," said Briner.

That uncertainty prompted the UB team to study the rates of retreat of a prehistoric tidewater glacier, of similar size and geometry to contemporary ones, as way to get a longer-term view of how fast these glaciers can literally disappear.

The researchers used a special dating tool at UB to study rock samples they extracted from a large fjord that drained the ice sheet that covered the North American Arctic during the past Ice Age.

Hundreds of years, folks. That means fscking catastrophic from the modeling point of view. And the sea rise point of view.


The CEO of Tesla Motors said today that the material cost of the electric car company's Roadster sports car has dropped to about $80,000, which should help the company reach profitability next month.

Elon Musk said in a blog post on Tesla's Web site that the material cost, which is the total cost of the parts and components that make up each vehicle, was as high as $140,000 in summer 2007.

The car currently has a starting sticker price of $109,000.

"Combined with a steady production volume of 20 to 30 per week in the third quarter this year and a good take up rate of the higher priced Roadster Sport, we expect to cross over into profitability next month," Musk wrote in his blog post.

The Roadster, a two-seat electric sports car, can get more than 200 miles on a single charge with an acceleration of zero to 60 mph in just under 4 seconds.

Musk said a key step toward lowering the costs was moving production of the vehicle's battery packs from a factory in Asia to the San Carlos-based company's home state.

"This may sound counterintuitive, but our unit cost actually went down and quality improved as we went to a more automated system and could iterate quickly with engineering to find design efficiencies, " Musk said.

In addition, moving production of the heavy and bulky battery packs significantly lowered the company's shipping costs, he said.

Closer to affordable! ;)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Canada's Big Iron Goes Live

It has taken a year and $50-million to put together, and its brain takes up as much room as a warehouse full of refrigerators.

Today, the monster finally opens its eyes, as the University of Toronto's newest supercomputer – the fastest such machine in Canada – goes online.

There's no shortage of beastly metrics by which this computer's power can be measured: It can perform more than 300 trillion calculations a second, simulate the Earth's climate 100 years into the future in four days and help researchers study cosmic background radiation, a calculation-intensive task that offers a glimpse into what the universe looked like 13 billion years ago.

The guy in charge, Dr Chris Loken, and I go back a loooooooooooooong ways (yes, HPC is far, far too small of a world). We were both at NMSU. Me as an undergrad and Chris as a postdoc. He left around 1996, iirc, and went to another position in Kansas, I think, following the rest of the cosmology team of the NMSU astronomy dept head that got a deanship here. We lost track of each other for a very long time after that until in 2006, I went to the Commodity Cluster Conference in Baltimore. I picked a table at random to sit down and talk to the people there over lunch (a habit at conferences unless I have a preset agenda to work through progects). It turned out that I DID know someone at the table: Chris.

NM has a very far reaching impact on HPC and science in general is seems. Not bad for a low ranking, little populated purple state.

Congratz to Chris et al for getting their monster up and running.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Advanced Tactical Laser Fired from C-130

The U.S. Air Force Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) system -- a high power laser weapon mounted to a C-130 turboprop aircraft -- took another step toward deployment this week when engineers from the Boeing Co. test fired the ATL for the first time in flight.

The Boeing ATL military laser aircraft took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and fired its laser weapon while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M., hitting a target on the ground.

ATL, which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Air Force, is a C-130H aircraft equipped with a chemical high energy laser, a beam control system, sensors, and weapon-system consoles. The ATL program supports special operations missions using a tactical high energy laser system for effects-based engagements against ground targets.

Again, this is a chemical laser. It's not something I'd think is a good idea to have flying around: better would be using the new, very new solid state lasers. For some reason I had thought the ATL was supposed to be put in a V-22, but I must be mistaken.

Climate Change is Already Here, Going to Get Worse

Extreme weather, drought, heavy rainfall and increasing temperatures are a fact of life in many parts of the U.S. as a result of human-induced climate change, researchers report today in a new assessment. These and other changes will continue and likely increase in intensity into the future, the scientists found.

Researchers representing 13 U.S. government science agencies, major universities and research institutes produced the study, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States." Commissioned in 2007, it is the most comprehensive report to date on national climate change, offering the latest information on rising temperatures, heavy downpours, extreme weather, sea level changes and other results of climate change in the U.S.

The 190-page report is a product of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is written in accessible language, intended to better inform members of the public and policymakers about the social, environmental and economic costs of climate change. It focuses on effects by region and details how the nation's transportation, agriculture, health, water and energy sectors will be affected in the future.

In a press conference today, University of Illinois Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Don Wuebbles, a contributor to the assessment, outlined the current and predicted effects of climate change in the Midwest U.S.

"We well recognize that the earth's climate varies naturally and has been warmer and cooler in the past," Wuebbles said. "But we also know that the climate changes we are experiencing today are largely the result of human activities."

Average temperatures have risen in the Midwest in recent decades, Wuebbles said, especially in winter. The growing season has been extended by one week. Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago, he said, and the Midwest has experienced two, record-breaking floods in the past 15 years.

These trends are expected to continue into the future, Wuebbles said. Average annual temperatures are expected to increase by about two degrees Fahrenheit over the next few decades, and by as much as seven to 10 degrees by the end of the century, he said, with more warming projected for summer than winter.

Precipitation is expected to increase in the winter and spring, while summer precipitation will likely decline.

"More of the precipitation is likely to occur during heavier events," Wuebbles said.

From here.

Two researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Evan Mills and Michael Wehner, contributed to the analysis of the effects of climate change on all regions of the United States, described in a major report released today by the multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program. For the southwest region of the United States, which includes California, the report forecasts a hotter, drier climate with significant effects on the environment, agriculture and health.

"Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States" covers such effects as changes in rainfall patterns, drought, wildfire, Atlantic hurricanes, and effects on food production, fish stocks and other wildlife, energy, agriculture, water supplies, and coastal communities.

"This is the most thorough and up-to-date review ever assembled of climate-change impacts observed to date as well as those anticipated in the future across the United States," says Evan Mills, one of the Berkeley Lab scientists who contributed to the report. While the report paints an ominous picture of potential impacts, "the good news is that the harshest impacts of future climate change can be avoided if the nation takes deliberate action soon. This can be done through a balanced mix of activities to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adaptation to the otherwise unavoidable impacts," says Mills.

The report addresses nine zones of the United States (Southwest, Northwest, Great Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast, Alaska, U.S. islands, and coasts), and describes potential climate change effects in each. California is part of the southwest zone, as well as a coastal zone.

Wehner, who is a climate researcher in the Scientific Computing Group of Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division, developed projections of future climate change for the report chapters covering global and national impacts of climate change. One of Wehner's research interests is extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change. His work is principally supported by the Climate Change Prediction Program in the DOE Office of Science's Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

The precipitation map is one of the projections developed by Wehner. It shows, among other things, a substantial reduction in springtime rains in California, and summertime rains in the Pacific Northwest.

"Even in areas where precipitation is projected to increase, higher temperatures will cause greater evaporation leading to a future where drought conditions are the normal state. In the southwest United States, water resource issues will become a major issue," says Wehner.

Another of Wehner's graphics shows past and future projections of the global mean surface air temperature, an indicator of the magnitude of the effects of global climate change. The three different trajectories after 2009 show low emissions, and two high emissions scenarios of how the temperature increase caused by greenhouse gas emissions could play out. The projections are based on the most sophisticated climate models available.

"These and similar projections reveal that actions taken today would take several decades to make any noticeable change in the rate of warming. This is one of the factors that makes climate change a difficult policy issue. There is no instant gratification," says Wehner.
From here.

Go Mike! GOOOO!

Ok, yes, I've worked with Mike on things. He's a damned smart man. I'll see if I can wrangle up copy of the report and scrape some comments and graphs from it for the blog. A bit busy though.

A Freakin Weird Ceratosaur

Bill Parker has the best scoop on this. Go read at Chinleana.

New Psittacosaurus species

The new dinosaur, Psittacosaurus gobiensis, resembled a modern parrot on steroids, but it was likely not a close relative.

"Psittacosaurus discovered the delights of nut eating 110 million years ago, at least 60 million years before the first parrot arrived," lead author a Paul Sereno told Discovery News.

Sereno, a University of Chicago paleontologist, with colleagues Zhao Xijin and Tan Lin analyzed the remains of the parrot-like dinosaur, which was first unearthed in the western Gobi Desert of inner Mongolia back in 1922. The fossils represent the first and most complete dinosaur excavated in that region at the time.

Sereno and his team, whose findings are published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, not only identified the new species, but they were also able to determine how, and what, it ate.

Analysis of its skull shows it had reinforcements and "enhanced attachment areas for powerful jaw muscles," as today's parrots do around their beaks. These clues, along with visible tooth wear, allowed the scientists to figure out how the dinosaur bit down on its food.

"Parrot-beaked dinosaurs chewed by sliding their lower jaw forward and then drawing it upward and backward against its upper teeth -- very unusual," said Sereno. "The vast majority of reptiles either just clamp the jaws shut or slide them forward and backward to grind."

No time to comment, but I know most of my readers love the paleo stuff. However, I doubt that this was 60 million years old. (oops!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Family Pix

From a BDay Party we went to this past weekend. The little boy above has declared he's going to marry my daughter. I, politely but solemnly, informed him he may play with my daughter until puberty, but then I'm getting out a shotgun. His mom thought it was hilarious. He just looked confused.

He actually IS a sweet kid though. When I picked Avrora up from preschool once, he solemnly walked up to me to tell me: "Please, Avrora's Dad, don't take her away from me."

hrmph. I never had these puppy love situations when I was a kid.

Poor Lyuda. I'm still sticking to my opinion that the miracle of pregnancy is surviving it.

Real Men Come From All Nations

A protester against the government intervened to save a policeman from other protesters.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Return of the Boneyard

Zach revived the Bone Yard, the Paleo blog carnival! WOOHOO! Too bad the rocket is eating my time. We have something pretty kewl in the works for the XenoPermian (and I ahve three 3/4 finished posts on mass extinctions and whatnot). Anyways, go look. July 12th I will be hosting the next round of the Bone Yard.

Please! Write up your posts!

When Pigs Fly Returns: Return of the Boneyard

Sorry For the Silence

Not much time at the moment. Everyhting is coming to a head.

Oh and stainless steel suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuux to machine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

China: No Carbon Dioxide Caps

China will not accept binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, an official said Thursday, after the United States said it made progress with Beijing in talks here on a global climate pact.

The comments came after a visit by US climate change envoy Todd Stern aimed at pressing the Asian giant to commit to hard numbers on emissions reductions ahead of December talks in Copenhagen on a new global warming treaty.

"China is still a developing country and the present task confronting China is to develop its economy and alleviate poverty, as well as raise the living standard of its people," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

"Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target."

Did I call it or what? Global Warming is Inevitable, folks. It's a train that will not be stopped!

Scratch Jatropha as a Biofuel

A comprehensive new analysis of water use in biofuel crop production finds that jatropha, an oil-rich plant championed for its ability to grow in arid regions where food crops cannot, is the biggest water hog of them all.

Researchers from the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, report in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that jatropha requires five times as much water per unit of energy as sugarcane and corn, and nearly ten times as much as sugar beet--the most water-efficient biofuel crop, according to the same study.

In recent years, as corn and other biofuel came under fire for driving up the cost of food production, some biofuel producers turned to Jatropha curcas, a weed that grows wild throughout the tropics and semitropics and produces seeds rich in oil.

In 2007, the oil-industry heavyweight BP teamed up with British biofuels company D1 Oils on a five-year, £80 million project to cultivate the plant in India, Southeast Asia, and Southern Africa. Together, the companies have planted more than 200,000 hectares so far. And the plant made headlines again late last year, when it became the first non-food-based biofuel to power a jet engine. But mounting evidence suggests that jatropha is not as ideal as once thought.

"The claim that jatropha doesn't compete for water and land with food crops is complete nonsense," says study coauthor Arjen Hoekstra. The researcher says it's true that the plant can grow with little water and can survive through periods of drought, but to flourish, it needs good growing conditions just like any other plant. "If there isn't sufficient water, you get a low amount of oil production," Hoekstra says.

Hoekstra and his colleagues assessed the water footprint of 13 different biofuel crops. Their calculations included regional estimates of how much rainwater each crop received and how much additional water would be required through irrigation for optimal growth. The study also considered evaporation rates during the growing season in the main production areas of each crop, and the average yields of each from 1997 to 2001. The figures were then averaged by country and globally to come up with a single water-footprint figure--per liter of ethanol or biodiesel--for each crop.

"You see a big difference depending on the country where the biomass is produced, different climates, different agricultural practices, the crop being used, whether it is a starch or sugar crop used for bioethanol, an oil crop for biodiesel, or a crop that is burned for electricity generation," Hoekstra says.

*cough*Need Cellulosic Biofuel techs*cough*

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

And the BAND Plays on!

Researchers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental new discovery about how birds breathe and have a lung capacity that allows for flight – and the finding means it's unlikely that birds descended from any known theropod dinosaurs.

The conclusions add to other evolving evidence that may finally force many paleontologists to reconsider their long-held belief that modern birds are the direct descendants of ancient, meat-eating dinosaurs, OSU researchers say.

"It's really kind of amazing that after centuries of studying birds and flight we still didn't understand a basic aspect of bird biology," said John Ruben, an OSU professor of zoology. "This discovery probably means that birds evolved on a parallel path alongside dinosaurs, starting that process before most dinosaur species even existed."

These studies were just published in The Journal of Morphology, and were funded by the National Science Foundation.

It gets REALLY good.

BAND, fwiw, means Birds Are Not Dinosaurs. I subscribe to BAD: Birds Are Dinosaurs.

Greenland Pro Independence Party Wins Election

Greenland's pro-independence leftist party Inuit Ataqatigiit, which won the Danish territory's legislative election on June 2, has agreed to form a coalition with two centrist parties, it said Sunday.

The three parties will hold a majority with 19 of 31 seats in the local parliament, the Landsting, IA leader Kuupik Kleist said in a statement.

IA, which ousted the social democratic Siumut party after 30 years in power, will hold 14 seats, the Democrats four seats and the Kattusseqatigiit Partiiat one seat.

Even though Siumut and IA had served in a coalition together as recently as 2007, Kleist had ruled out forming an alliance with Siumut after it became embroiled in a slew of scandals in recent months.

Final details still needed to be worked out on the government coalition and the cabinet portfolios were to be divided up Monday, Greenlandic radio KNR reported.

This is something I've not seen in my light cone of the blogosphere. I'm surprised at least Randy didn't pick it up. I really wonder what the economic prospects of an independent Greenland would be. After all, they receive a nontrivial amount of subsidies - more than half a billion, for 60k people!!! - from Denmark at this point and presumably that'd go away. Oh the other hand, lots of natural resources are becoming more accessible. Is it worth half a billion in subsidies though?

1 MY Serbian Mammoth Fossil Found

A well-preserved skeleton of a mammoth that is believed to be about one million years old has been unearthed in eastern Serbia, archaeologists said Thursday.

The discovery was made during excavation two days ago at an open-pit coal mine near Kostolac power plant, said Miomir Korac, from Serbia's Archaeology Institute.

A mammoth in a coal mine. Interesting combo. It's a southern mammoth (mammuthus meridionalis).

First ExtraGalactic ExoPlanet

Yes, you read that right. They found an exoplanet in the Andromeda Galaxy. Freakin Italians just couldn't stand to let anyone outdo them in astronomy anymore. Sheesh.

Paleoclimate Simulation Meeting

8:30 a.m. Christine Shields – NCAR
Updates to the CCSM3 Late Ordovician Simulations: CO2 Sensitivity and Implications for Glaciation

8:50 a.m. Arne Winguth – University of Texas
Response of Early Eocene Climate to Greenhouse Gas Forcing – A Model Study with CCSM3

9:10 a.m. Cecilia Bitz – University of Washington
North Atlantic Climate Variability at LGM, 14k, and Present Day

9:30 a.m. Esther Brady – NCAR
Ocean Freshwater Transport in the LGM Freshening Experiments

9:50 a.m. Zhengyu Liu – University of Wisconsin
Transient Climate Evolution of the Last 21000 Years: Update

10:10 a.m. Synte Peacock – NCAR
Isotopes in the Glacial Ocean

10:30 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m. Caspar Ammann – NCAR
New Implementations of Natural Forcing in CCSM4

11:20 a.m. Robert Oglesby – University of Nebraska
Role of North Atlantic SST on Persistent Drought in North America

11:40 a.m. Discussion

12:00 p.m. Adjourn

Link at the top is to the webcast. It's in the Tarn room. I'll try to live blog this.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Browsing Horse Found in Panama Canal Zone

Rushing to salvage fossils from the Panama Canal earthworks, Aldo Rincon, paleontology intern at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, unearthed a set of fossil teeth. Bruce J. MacFadden, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida in Gainesville, describes the fossil as Anchitherium clarencei, a three-toed browsing horse, in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.

By far the most complete fossil of a horse collected at the site in excavations spanning the last century, characteristics such as the shape of the teeth confirm the identity of two earlier finds and indicate that this horse was primarily a forest-dwelling browser living in the area between 15 and 18 million years ago. This evidence supports MacFadden's earlier proposal that the habitat was probably a mosaic of relatively dense forest and open woodlands. The presence of this browsing horse in Panama significantly extends the southern tip of its range from previous finds from roughly the same period in Florida, Nebraska and South Dakota.

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