Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Лучше надеяться внимание медведя находится в другом месте, лягушка!

The fighting is pretty mellow compared to times past.  Its by and large by individuals and their own automatic weapons.  Sometimes it escalates to using automatic grenade launchers and squad level mortars, but rarely more.  The primary places of fighting like this are around Donetsk.

On the other hand, there has been a significant attack on the Ukrainian armed forces at Zaitsevo, north of Gorlovka. This was a major clash where the DNR attempted to overrun the UAF positions. The UAF repelled the attack.

Maryinka had another attacks as well.  This had tank cannons being used.

There has been an intense battle raging in Avdiivka for several hours.  Mortars and less so far, but nothing bigger.

Supposedly, both sides have agreed to remove more weapons from the contact line.  The only things left are the automatic grenade launchers, squad level mortars and infantry weapons, supposedly.  The tanks are already supposed to be gone.  They aren't.  They are supposed to be though.

Pushilin heralded the move as possibly the end of the war.  Immediately afterwards, Avdiivka and Maryinka blew up.

Ukraine has placed sanctions on several Russian officials and companies including a Russian railroad company and banned all Russian airlines in and out of Ukraine.  The Russians reciprocated the ban of Ukrainian airlines in Russia.

King Crabs are Likely to Devastate the Antarctic Sea Shelf Ecology in the Next few Decades

No barrier to emergence of bathyal king crabs on the Antarctic shelf


Aronson et al


Cold-water conditions have excluded durophagous (skeleton-breaking) predators from the Antarctic seafloor for millions of years. Rapidly warming seas off the western Antarctic Peninsula could now facilitate their return to the continental shelf, with profound consequences for the endemic fauna. Among the likely first arrivals are king crabs (Lithodidae), which were discovered recently on the adjacent continental slope. During the austral summer of 2010‒2011, we used underwater imagery to survey a slope-dwelling population of the lithodid Paralomis birsteini off Marguerite Bay, western Antarctic Peninsula for environmental or trophic impediments to shoreward expansion. The population density averaged ∼4.5 individuals × 1,000 m−2 within a depth range of 1,100‒1,500 m (overall observed depth range 841–2,266 m). Images of juveniles, discarded molts, and precopulatory behavior, as well as gravid females in a trapping study, suggested a reproductively viable population on the slope. At the time of the survey, there was no thermal barrier to prevent the lithodids from expanding upward and emerging on the outer shelf (400- to 550-m depth); however, near-surface temperatures remained too cold for them to survive in inner-shelf and coastal environments (less than 00 m). Ambient salinity, composition of the substrate, and the depth distribution of potential predators likewise indicated no barriers to expansion of lithodids onto the outer shelf. Primary food resources for lithodids—echinoderms and mollusks—were abundant on the upper slope (550–800 m) and outer shelf. As sea temperatures continue to rise, lithodids will likely play an increasingly important role in the trophic structure of subtidal communities closer to shore.

Say Hello to China's Second Aircraft Carrier


AeroVironment NOT Selected for DARPA's TERN Naval UAV

AeroVironment today announced it was informed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that the company was not selected to receive a phase III contract for DARPA’s Tern program. The announcement came after a competition for the phase III contract following successful phase I and II efforts.

Defense Officials Testify to Congress About CyberWarfare

The United States’ adversaries see cyber warfare as a potential American vulnerability in a military engagement, the Pentagon’s number two civilian told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said, “In terms of deterrence we are not where we need to be” as a nation or a department. In answer to a question, he said many DOD “systems were not built” to meet today’s threat. The same holds true for installations, Terry Halvorsen, acting DOD chief of information, testified.

Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of Cyber Command, added, “We are being challenged as never before.” In cyber, he identified Russia as a peer competitor with the United States and China and other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, actively developing a broad range of cyber capabilities.

He said his command “is trying to overcome decades of investment” decisions to build up resiliency and redundancy in DOD capabilities.

Rogers said in answer to a question that his greatest concerns were cyber being used to seriously damage or destroy critical infrastructure, shifting intrusions from stealing of information to manipulating data, and terrorist groups using the Internet as an offensive weapon.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said, “What we could expect next is data manipulation, which then calls into question the integrity of the data [from financial transactions to the power grid, etc.], which in many ways is more insidious than the attacks we’ve suffered thus far.”

The Struggle to Define, Prevent Global Cyberwar

The cyberwar era arguably began two hours before midnight on April 26, 2007, when hordes of Internet traffic started quietly overwhelming servers in the small European nation of Estonia.

The barrage, prompted by the Estonian government’s decision to relocate a controversial monument to the country’s Russian liberators in World War II, went largely unnoticed for the first 24 hours. After a week, major government websites were offline. In the second week, the hackers, operating from an unknown location and controlling infected machines all over the world, brought down the websites of Estonia’s major newspapers. The papers’ IT experts eventually had to block all international traffic to stay online—saving themselves, but cutting off their best way of telling the world that they were under attack.

The hackers were using a technique called a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. They assembled botnets—networks of computers surreptitiously infected with their malware—to flood Estonian servers with data requests. This jumble of garbage traffic prevented packets of genuine data from getting through. DDoS attacks are a crude but highly effective tool, and they continue to be a major weapon in cyberattackers’ arsenals.

The attacks peaked at midnight, Russian time, on May 9, the anniversary of V-E Day. The symbolism was obvious and deliberate: Most of the attacks were the work of pro-Russian activists, who used software distributed on Russian-language forums and were furious about the relocation of a statue honoring their war heroes. When the nationwide political cyberattack reached a fever pitch, Estonian servers received a combined total of 4 million packets per second from almost 1 million computers worldwide.

“Never before had an entire country been targeted on almost every digital front all at once,” wrote Wired’s Joshua Davis in August 2007, “and never before had a government itself fought back.”

Video of the Russian Air Strikes in Syria: Looks Like They Missed Some Targets

Looks like they missed with some of the targets.  Either their PGMs are not so great or they were using unguided bombs.

Morrosaurus antarcticus: a new Ornithopod Dinosaur From Maastrichtian Cretaceous Antarctica

A new ornithopod (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica and its palaeobiogeographical implications


Rozadilla et al


A new ornithopod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Snow Hill Island Formation, at James Ross Island, Antarctica is here described. This new taxon, named as Morrosaurus antarcticus gen. et sp. nov., is represented by a fragmentary right hind limb belonging to a medium-sized individual. Our phylogenetic analysis nests the new taxon in a monophyletic clade of Southern Hemisphere ornithopods that includes most Patagonian and Antarctic ornithopods. Several members of this group share a slender and bunched foot with narrow metatarsal IV, expanded chevrons, and bowed humerus without deltopectoral crest. Several features indicate that these ornithopods exhibit adaptations for a specialized cursorial mode of life. The recognition of Patagonian and Antarctic Ornithopoda belonging to a monophyletic clade reinforces palaeobiogeographical signals indicating that Patagonia, Antarctica and Australia shared a common Late Cretaceous terrestrial fauna.

Evidence of Organic Molecules From Another Star System From Carbonaceous Chondrite Asteroid

Multiple Cosmic Sources for Meteorite Macromolecules?


Sephton et al


The major organic component in carbonaceous meteorites is an organic macromolecular material. The Murchison macromolecular material comprises aromatic units connected by aliphatic and heteroatom-containing linkages or occluded within the wider structure. The macromolecular material source environment remains elusive. Traditionally, attempts to determine source have strived to identify a single environment. Here, we apply a highly efficient hydrogenolysis method to liberate units from the macromolecular material and use mass spectrometric techniques to determine their chemical structures and individual stable carbon isotope ratios. We confirm that the macromolecular material comprises a labile fraction with small aromatic units enriched in 13C and a refractory fraction made up of large aromatic units depleted in 13C. Our findings suggest that the macromolecular material may be derived from at least two separate environments. Compound-specific carbon isotope trends for aromatic compounds with carbon number may reflect mixing of the two sources. The story of the quantitatively dominant macromolecular material in meteorites appears to be made up of more than one chapter.

Russia Acknowledges Air Strikes in Syria, France States Strikes NOT Against Islamic State

France said it was "curious" that Russian air strikes in Syria on Wednesday had not targeted Islamic State militants and a diplomatic source added that Moscow's action appeared aimed at supporting President Bashar al-Assad against other opposition groups in the country's civil war.

The diplomatic source said it was in line with Russia's stance since 2012 that until there was a viable alternative to Assad, Moscow would not drop its support for him in the war that began in 2011 after a government crackdown on anti-Assad protests.

"Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.

A French diplomatic source said the strikes, which seemed to have been carried out near Homs, an area crucial to Assad's control of western Syria.

"It is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar's regime than in fighting Daesh," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


Fossils of a 'Lost City' Hydrothermal Ecology From Cretaceous Spain

Fluid mixing and the deep biosphere of a fossil Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the Iberia Margin


Klein et al


Subseafloor mixing of reduced hydrothermal fluids with seawater is believed to provide the energy and substrates needed to support deep chemolithoautotrophic life in the hydrated oceanic mantle (i.e., serpentinite). However, geosphere-biosphere interactions in serpentinite-hosted subseafloor mixing zones remain poorly constrained. Here we examine fossil microbial communities and fluid mixing processes in the subseafloor of a Cretaceous Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the magma-poor passive Iberia Margin (Ocean Drilling Program Leg 149, Hole 897D). Brucite−calcite mineral assemblages precipitated from mixed fluids ca. 65 m below the Cretaceous paleo-seafloor at temperatures of 31.7 ± 4.3 °C within steep chemical gradients between weathered, carbonate-rich serpentinite breccia and serpentinite. Mixing of oxidized seawater and strongly reducing hydrothermal fluid at moderate temperatures created conditions capable of supporting microbial activity. Dense microbial colonies are fossilized in brucite−calcite veins that are strongly enriched in organic carbon (up to 0.5 wt.% of the total carbon) but depleted in 13C (δ13CTOC = −19.4‰). We detected a combination of bacterial diether lipid biomarkers, archaeol, and archaeal tetraethers analogous to those found in carbonate chimneys at the active Lost City hydrothermal field. The exposure of mantle rocks to seawater during the breakup of Pangaea fueled chemolithoautotrophic microbial communities at the Iberia Margin, possibly before the onset of seafloor spreading. Lost City-type serpentinization systems have been discovered at midocean ridges, in forearc settings of subduction zones, and at continental margins. It appears that, wherever they occur, they can support microbial life, even in deep subseafloor environments.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Long Range Strike Bomber Contract Award Likely Delayed at Least two Months

The Pentagon may take another two months or more to award a closely watched contract to build a new long-range bomber, a senior U.S. Air Force official said Tuesday.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is vying with a team of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to build up to 100 new jets that would to be fielded from the mid-2020s to replace aging B-52s and B-1 bombers.

“It’s coming soon,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, a senior Air Force acquisition official, said during a congressional hearing. “My hope is within the next couple of months.”

The Pentagon had initially planned to make the award in the spring, but has pushed back the timetable several times. Analysts had expected an announcement in the next few weeks.

Nuking Mars Will Not Meet Planetary-Protection Standards

SpaceX founder Elon Musk raised some (more) eyebrows with his suggestion that in order to colonize Mars with humans, it may be necessary to start by nuking the planet’s polar icecaps. Musk made the remarks to late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, a comedian, but he wasn’t joking. Later he tweeted that nuking Mars was merely an “option” for releasing carbon dioxide and triggering greenhouse-gas global warming as a prelude to terraforming the red planet.

link (paywall).

Would you buy a Bama? Its a Genetically Engineered Micro Pig From China to be a *PET*

Over the years, chihuahuas have become chihuahuas and pugs have become pugs because people have bred those dogs to bring out certain traits and inhibit others. A genomics institute in China called BGI is doing the same thing with pigs -- but in a much faster way.

The Shenzhen-based company started with a small breed of pig called a Bama. It then used a gene-editing technique to make that already small pig even smaller. On September 23, the company announced at a summit in Shenzhen that it would start selling the micropigs for 10,000 yuan (about $1,570, £1,037, AU$2,245). Customers will be able to choose their very own pig color and coat patterns, which the company can create through further gene editing.

Hope long until we see them in purses like the little dogs?

Some Naval and Marine Aviation News, Including UCLASS, From DOD Authorization Act

Here's a short list:

1.  6 Additional F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps, bring their total for 2016 to 15.

2.  12 Additional F-18Es for the US Navy.

3.  An additional MQ-4C Triton.

4.  $350 million for UCLASS (navy asked for $135M).   Up to $305M may be used for competitive prototyping and at least some of it is supposed to be used for the X-49B testing to reduce the risk of UCLASS.  The committee also said:

“The conferees believe that the Navy should develop a penetrating, air-refuelable, unmanned carrier-launched aircraft capable of performing a broad range of missions in a non- permissive environment. The conferees believe that such an aircraft should be designed for full integration into carrier air wing operations—including strike operations—and possess the range, payload, and survivability attributes as necessary to complement such integration,” according to the statement.

“Although the Defense Department could develop land-based unmanned aircraft with attributes to support the air wing, the conferees believe that the United States would derive substantial strategic and operational benefits from operating such aircraft from a mobile seabase that is self-deployable and not subject to the caveats of a host nation.”

More Russians in Syria News

Additionally, at least six Su-34s are confirmed to have arrived in Syria.

India Seeking American, French Help in Building Nuclear Attack Subs

For the first time India has options when it comes to finding a partner to build a military nuclear asset. Besides Russia, ship builders from France and the US have started initial conversations with the defence ministry on participating in an Indian effort to build a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Russia has been the traditional ally of India when it comes to sensitive technology and strategic systems.

But a Navy plan for constructing six new nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to patrol the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond has prompted 'discussions' with the two western nations, sources familiar with the development told ET. The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared Navy's proposal in February.

An Amazing Flyover of Charon

Flightless Diving Duck From Pleistocene Quaternary Japan

Flightless diving duck (Aves, Anatidae) from the Pleistocene of Shiriya, Northeast Japan


Watanabe et al


A flightless fossil duck (Aves, Anatidae), Shiriyanetta hasegawai, gen. et sp. nov., is described as a member of the Shiriya local fauna, a middle–late Pleistocene marine and terrestrial vertebrate fauna from fissure-fill deposits in the Shiriya area, northeast Japan. The species is represented by isolated bones, including skull fragments, vertebrae, pectoral and pelvic girdle elements, and most of the major limb elements. Osteological features of Shiriyanetta suggest that it had taxonomic affinity with tribe Mergini (seaducks) of subfamily Anatinae, and specifically with Recent Polysticta and Somateria (eiders). Although the overall large size, several unique skeletal features, and the proportions of the limb bones of Shiriyanetta strongly resemble North American seaducks of the genus Chendytes Miller, 1925, extinct relatives of Somateria, most elements of the two genera are diagnostically different from one another. Comparisons of these taxa and other flightless anatids with their relatives show that some of the apparently shared osteological features of Shiriyanetta and Chendytes are probably associated with flightlessness rather than reflecting a close relationship between the two genera. Given that Recent Somateria has an impaired flight ability, or the occurrence of a temporary flightless condition, it is quite possible that Shiriyanetta and Chendytes might have lost their flight ability independently, resulting in the contemporaneous occurrence of flightless ducks on both sides of the Pleistocene North Pacific.

Found! Squirrel Nutkin's Tail

The PaleoBioDiversity of the Ecosystem of Romania's Hateg Island From the Campanian to the Terminal Maastrichtian Cretaceous

The East Side Story – The Transylvanian latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate record and its implications for understanding Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary events


Csiki-Sava et al


The latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate faunas of the wider Transylvanian area figured prominently in discussions concerning the Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary (K-Pg) events when they were first described by Nopcsa between 1897 and 1929, because they were assumed to be late Maastrichtian in age. Subsequently their age was reconsidered as early Maastrichtian, and were thus regarded of lesser importance in understanding the K-Pg boundary events in Europe and worldwide. Moreover, Transylvanian continental vertebrate assemblages (the so-called ‘Haţeg Island’ faunas) were often lumped together as a temporally restricted assemblage with a homogenous taxonomic composition. Recent fossil discoveries and more precise dating techniques have considerably expanded knowledge of the Transylvanian vertebrate assemblages, their ages, and their evolution. A synthesis of the available stratigraphic data allows development of the first comprehensive chronostratigraphic framework of the latest Cretaceous Transylvanian vertebrates. According to these new data, expansion of continental habitats and emergence of their vertebrate faunas started locally during the latter part of the late Campanian, and these faunas continued up to the second half of the Maastrichtian. During this time, long-term faunal stasis appears to have characterized the Transylvanian vertebrate assemblages, which is different from the striking turnovers recorded in western Europe during the same time interval. This suggests that there was no single ‘Europe-wide’ pattern of latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate evolution. Together, the available data shows that dinosaurs and other vertebrates were relatively abundant and diverse until at least ca. 1 million years before the K-Pg boundary, and is therefore consistent with the hypothesis of a sudden extinction, although this must be tested with future discoveries and better age constraints and correlations.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Stealth Saga #7: Slips, Blunders and Anticipation

The PAK-FA/T-50 will be tested in wargames next year.

The PAK-FA has been officially delayed at least until 2017: supposedly, it will be a total of 12 fighters.  If it does, development slips are quite common.

The PAK-FA will be equipped with a new Mach 3.5 anti radiation missile from the get-go.  This will help it in an anti AWACS and SEAD role as it will be possible to carry it internally.

More information on the public 'leak' of the Chinese FC-31/J-31 stealth fighter.

How China is catching up to the US with its stealth technology.

South Korea's KF-X stealth fighter project is endangered because they have failed to secure four critical technologies.  There was a hint the project would be delayed whether or not they got the tech transfers though.

The KF-X program gets blasted by the press many times.

Turkey's selection of the engine for its F-X stealth fighter project is critical.

Boeing in the 1960s looked into stealth technology with its semi successful model 'Quiet Bird.'

The Long Range Strike Bomber contract is still a toss up.

Lessons from the LRS-B program are going to be applied to the Long Range Strike Weapon and T-X.

The US Air Force is considering an F-22 base in Europe.

General Carlisle considers ending F-22 production at 195 a complete mistake, wants to restart production, but realizes it is unlikely given the budget realities.  Foxtrot Alpha reiterates the fact shutting down F-22 production was a mistake.

Canada may not be able to afford the F-35 due to the falling Canadian dollar.  The Liberal Party in Canada has stated it will not buy the F-35 if it wins the election.

The first F-35 for Norway has been rolled out

General Bogdan is more than confident the F-35 will be more than a match for any aircraft currently under development, inclusive of the J-20, PAK-FA and J-31.

The F-35C shipboard testing will include a  full internal weapons load and the new helmet.

Extraordinary Claim: How to Detect Dark Matter...From the Earth's Core

Dark Photons from the Center of the Earth: Smoking-Gun Signals of Dark Matter


Feng et al


Dark matter may be charged under dark electromagnetism with a dark photon that kinetically mixes with the Standard Model photon. In this framework, dark matter will collect at the center of the Earth and annihilate into dark photons, which may reach the surface of the Earth and decay into observable particles. We determine the resulting signal rates, including Sommerfeld enhancements, which play an important role in bringing the Earth's dark matter population to their maximal, equilibrium value. For dark matter masses mX∼ 100 GeV - 10 TeV, dark photon masses mA′∼ MeV - GeV, and kinetic mixing parameters ε∼10−9−10−7, the resulting electrons, muons, photons, and hadrons that point back to the center of the Earth are a smoking-gun signal of dark matter that may be detected by a variety of experiments, including neutrino telescopes, such as IceCube, and space-based cosmic ray detectors, such as Fermi-LAT and AMS. We determine the signal rates and characteristics, and show that large and striking signals---such as parallel muon tracks---are possible in regions of the (mA′,ε) plane that are not probed by direct detection, accelerator experiments, or astrophysical observations.

Mining Helium-3 on the Moon is Nonsensical

In recent years the subject of sending humans back to the Moon has largely gone mute, initially overwhelmed by talk of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, and more recently by the agency’s media drumbeat about sending humans to Mars. Because of this, there is also subsequently very little talk about a weird bit of magical thinking that often accompanies discussions of humans on the Moon: mining the Moon for helium-3 to power nonexistent fusion reactors. But that magical thinking still lurks, like a small burning ember in a burned-down house, waiting for a chance to flare up again. Last month at the Mars Society convention in Washington, DC, the subject of helium-3 briefly sparked once more, brought up by one of its longtime proponents, Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt.

Schmitt is probably the smartest astronaut who walked on the Moon, and certainly the most educated. He is a Harvard-trained geologist who NASA admitted to the Apollo program under pressure from Congress, and his presence undoubtedly increased the scientific return of his Apollo 17 mission as well as the entire program considering his role in training astronauts on earlier missions. Schmitt can still deliver graduate-level geology lectures if given the opportunity. But he also embraces the dubious scientific and engineering idea of mining helium-3 on the Moon for use in fusion reactors.

The last big flurry of articles and publications, and even a congressional hearing, about helium-3 fusion occurred in 2007, when NASA was still planning to send humans to the Moon. NASA did not drive that discussion then, but rather Schmitt and a few others. But even eight years later helium-3 still pollutes the environment of discussions about human spaceflight, despite its very nebulous assumptions.

Russia Installing Advanced AntiAircraft Defenses in Syria to Protect Against...the Islamic State! yeah! That's it!

In keeping with its increasingly aggressive behavior over the past two years, Russia is deploying lethal and long-ranged anti-aircraft defenses to keep Western forces out of three key regions: the Baltics, the Black Sea, and, now, the Levant. From where NATO’s top commander Gen. Philip Breedlove sits, the Russian forces flowing into Syria don’t look like counter-terrorists out to stop the Islamic State, which Vladimir Putin has said is his highest priority. They look like the first pieces of a layered “anti-access/area denial” system that could complicate US and allied operations in Syria and well beyond.

“Anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD, is a growing problem,” Gen. Breedlove told the German Marshall Fund this afternoon, speaking just hours before Putin’s teeth-clenched meeting with President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The northernmost danger zone or “bubble” is the oldest, based out of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. “Kaliningrad is a large platform for A2/AD capability,” Breedlove said. His subordinates Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges have warned taht Kaliningrad-based missiles reach well into Polish airspace and could shut down NATO reinforcements to the Baltics in a crisis.

To the south, by contrast, Russia lacked a suitable forward base — until last year. “[Since] their occupation of Crimea, Russia has developed a very strong A2/AD capability in the Black Sea,” Breedlove said. “Essentially, their [anti-ship] cruise missiles range the entire Black Sea, and their air defense missiles range about 40 to 50 percent of the Black Sea.”

Now, it seems, comes Syria. “As we see these very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Breedlove said. “We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into these airfields. We see some very sophisticated air-to-air [fighter] aircraft going into these airfields.”

The Islamic State has no air force that Russia might use such sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to counter, Breedlove continued. “These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL,” he argued, despite Putin’s publicly stated priorities.

Russian Army Vision of Robotic Ground Combat Channels Steve Jackson and Keith Laumer

In a far-off future war, an infantry platoon awaits a Russian assault.

The defending soldiers are in a fortified position on elevated ground or a reverse slope. They’ve arranged machine guns and anti-tank weapons to kill anything that comes into view. They’ve dug into the ground to help them survive the initial artillery barrage. To bolster their defenses even more, they’ve covered the area in front of them with mines.

If the Russian assault force was human, then it’d probably be too dangerous to go ahead with the attack. But it’s not. Over the horizon comes a mix of mostly-robotic vehicles — and the NATO troops don’t have much of a chance.

Bell Helicopter V-280 Tiltrotor Demonstrator Fuselage Delivered

Spirit AeroSystems rolled out the first fuselage for the Bell Helicopter V-280 tiltrotor demonstrator on 22 September, revealing much about how the team hopes to make tiltrotor technology affordable for widespread military application.

The V-280 features several design innovations as a generational improvement on the tiltrotor technology used with the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, including a potential breakthrough with a straight wing that replaces the dihedral and swept swing on the V-22.

But Bell chief executive John Garrison tells Flightglobal in an interview that the most critical breakthrough on the V-280 is also manufacturing process intended to dramatically lower the price point and operating cost of tiltrotor technology.

These are the Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 Procurement Entrants

British Aerospace:

General Dynamics:





Maritime Patrol UAVs: Reapers With Freakin Sono Bouys in Their Payloads!

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has introduced a new sonobuoy capability for its MQ-9 Guardian maritime unmanned air vehicle which, alongside a number of other developing technologies, could make it a contender to help fill the UK’s maritime patrol gap.

A concept was presented at the Royal Navy’s maritime awareness conference at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall on 24 September, which showed a number of sonobuoys being released from a bay on the UAV.

While a requirement for a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) acquisition has yet to be released from the UK government, the developments that General Atomics is incorporating into the MQ-9 suggests that it will look to offer a modified Guardian to complement a manned MPA that is expected to be procured.

The new sonobuoy capability has been developed alongside Ultra Electronics over two years, Jonny King, director for General Atomics’ UK division, says.

“What we’re really looking at is a Predator B carrying sonobuoys, controlling them, and sending sonobuoy information back to the ground station over a SATCOM link,” King says.

What Color Were Those Eocene Bats in the Fossils?

What colour were the animals that roamed the Earth 50 million years ago? For the first time, the original colour of a fossil mammal has been described by scientists from the University of Bristol, UK and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, US.

The researchers combined morphological, experimental and chemical techniques to determine the colour of two species of bat, which lived in the Eocene Epoch, 56-33.9 million years ago.

By studying microscopic spherical and oblong-shaped structures in the fossils, they found that the bats were reddish-brown in colour. For years, scientists have been divided on whether these structures are melanosomes -organelles (subunits within in cell) that contain melanin and have distinct shapes in modern animals, which can be used to infer colour - or fossilised bacteria, which had eaten away at an animal before it was buried.

In this new study, Bristol-based Dr Jakob Vinther and Masters student Caitlin Colleary, now a PhD student at Virginia Tech, along with researchers from UT Austin and a number of other universities, show that the organic microbodies in the skin, hair, feathers and eyes of exceptionally preserved fossils (ranging in age from the Carboniferous to the Miocene, 300-20 million years ago) contain the remnants of melanin.

In order to identify the origin of these curious structures, the researchers replicated the conditions under which the fossils formed using high pressure, high temperature autoclave experiments. They showed that the fossils contain fossilised melanin by using Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS), which had changed in chemical composition over time.

Dr Vinther, who first described fossil melanosomes and reconstructed the colours of a feathered dinosaur, said: "This is a great leap forward in our understanding of how fossils are preserved. We now know how melanin is preserved and we have the methods to confidently detect it."

Melanin comes in two distinct colours: reddish brown phaeomelanin and black eumelanin.

Evolutionary Genomics and Conservation of the Endangered Przewalski’s Horse

Evolutionary Genomics and Conservation of the Endangered Przewalski’s Horse


Der Sarkissian et al


Przewalski’s horses (PHs, Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii) were discovered in the Asian steppes in the 1870s and represent the last remaining true wild horses. PHs became extinct in the wild in the 1960s but survived in captivity, thanks to major conservation efforts. The current population is still endangered, with just 2,109 individuals, one-quarter of which are in Chinese and Mongolian reintroduction reserves [ 1 ]. These horses descend from a founding population of 12 wild-caught PHs and possibly up to four domesticated individuals [ 2–4 ]. With a stocky build, an erect mane, and stripped and short legs, they are phenotypically and behaviorally distinct from domesticated horses (DHs, Equus caballus). Here, we sequenced the complete genomes of 11 PHs, representing all founding lineages, and five historical specimens dated to 1878–1929 CE, including the Holotype. These were compared to the hitherto-most-extensive genome dataset characterized for horses, comprising 21 new genomes. We found that loci showing the most genetic differentiation with DHs were enriched in genes involved in metabolism, cardiac disorders, muscle contraction, reproduction, behavior, and signaling pathways. We also show that DH and PH populations split ∼45,000 years ago and have remained connected by gene-flow thereafter. Finally, we monitor the genomic impact of ∼110 years of captivity, revealing reduced heterozygosity, increased inbreeding, and variable introgression of domestic alleles, ranging from non-detectable to as much as 31.1%. This, together with the identification of ancestry informative markers and corrections to the International Studbook, establishes a framework for evaluating the persistence of genetic variation in future reintroduced populations.

Iran's Buildup in Syria

The news media has focused on Russia increasing its military power in Syria. Iran, however, has been doing the same in recent months, albeit with more subtlety.

During the past year, officers and soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reinforced territory valuable to the Syrian government — in particular Hama Governorate. The countryside surrounding Hama contains supply chains that connect Aleppo, the country’s largest city; Homs, a former rebel stronghold and current government one; and Latakia, the heartland of the Syrian’s government’s base of support.

The Syrian opposition has ousted Syrian troops from Idlib Governorate, just north of Hama, and hopes to advance on these supply chains. Tehran knows very well that to keep its Syrian Pres. Bashar Al Assad in power, it must keep his army fighting in Hama.


Russian Granit 3 UAV Over Rebel Positions in Syria

Mars Wept: Evidence of Periodic, Flowing Salty Water on Martian Slopes Found

Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars


Ojha et al


Determining whether liquid water exists on the Martian surface is central to understanding the hydrologic cycle and potential for extant life on Mars. Recurring slope lineae, narrow streaks of low reflectance compared to the surrounding terrain, appear and grow incrementally in the downslope direction during warm seasons when temperatures reach about 250–300 K, a pattern consistent with the transient flow of a volatile species1, 2, 3. Brine flows (or seeps) have been proposed to explain the formation of recurring slope lineae1, 2, 3, yet no direct evidence for either liquid water or hydrated salts has been found4. Here we analyse spectral data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from four different locations where recurring slope lineae are present. We find evidence for hydrated salts at all four locations in the seasons when recurring slope lineae are most extensive, which suggests that the source of hydration is recurring slope lineae activity. The hydrated salts most consistent with the spectral absorption features we detect are magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that recurring slope lineae form as a result of contemporary water activity on Mars.

Knowledge yet to be Touched

First Evidence of a Wild Fire From Campanian Cretaceous North Africa

The first evidence of paleo-wildfire from the Campanian (Late Cretaceous) of North Africa


El Atfy et al


Although the fossil record of plant macro- and mesofossils, including fossil charcoal, is patchy geographically and temporally, such remains play an important role for the interpretation of paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic developments in the continental realm. In Egypt, previous palynological studies on the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) deposits suggested presence of lush subtropical forests, dominated by angiosperms and pteridophytes, which developed under warm and wet climatic conditions. In the present study, the occurrence of paleo-wildfires during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) is presented for the first time, based on samples from a surface exposure in the vicinity of the Baris Oasis, south Western Desert, Egypt. Macroscopic charcoal was collected and subsequently analyzed under a stereomicroscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM). The charred wood remains were identified as belonging to gymnosperms, which were important components of the North African paleoflora during the Cretaceous. These charcoal remains represent the first verified occurrence of paleo-wildfires in Africa during the Campanian.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Robopocalypse #24: Shivers, Shuttles and Sneaks


A drone filmed a very large shiver (aka school) of sharks (see video above).

The FAA is under pressure to increase enforcement of regulation of consumer drones.  The most recent mishap is of a drone crashing and injuring a 11 month old toddler.

The FAA is looking at requiring collision avoidance systems and other restrictions for large drones.

The NFL has gotten permission to fly drones for game coverage.  I am waiting for the ball to take out a drone at some point.

A university professor is boosting drones for agricultural use.

Another entrepreneur is getting drones to work for agriculture rather than researching it.

Is that a drone in your pocket?

The Flybi drone has VR goggles that allow you to see what the drone's camera does and points the camera where your head turns.  It also has automatic battery changing.

One drone maker thinks drones are part of the internet of things.

And prisons are using drones to counter smuggling.

Drones are playing a critical role looking for the missing in Central Texas flooding.

Self Driving Cars:

The WePod (above) self driving shuttle is going to be tested in the Netherlands in November, but under hefty restrictions.

A former GM and BMW exec is warning Apple that its car efforts are going to be a big money pit.

DriveAI is attempting to develop an equivalent kit of sensors and computers needed for self driving cars at 1/50th the cost of what Google currently pays.

Tesla, Google and Apple are racing to the first salable self driving car.

A Forbes article counters the auto industry stating Apple can succeed in developing its own self driving car.

Self driving buses are likely to follow the cars and trucks onto the road.  Given how little the tech bus drivers are paid, self driving buses are a good idea.

3d Printing:

Here's more on the monster 3d printer for 'houses.'

Architectural detailing may make a come back with 3d printing.

They are now able to 3d print smart memory materials, allowing them to change shape after being printed.

The US Navy and Royal Navy are greatly expanding their 3d printing experiments.

The 3d printer market might be going through some significant turnover.

Samsung got a patent for multicolored inks in 3d printers.  Erm.  Prior art?

Autodesk has bought 3d printing software company netfabb.

Caterpillar has been in 3d printing for a while now.

The first bio-ink 3d printing cartridges have been created with a living cells.

There is now a a way to print 'fabric' with thermoplastic polyurethane.

Porcelain is a material now added to the list of things that can be 3d printed.

Why MakerBot is placing 3d printers in schools.


Every playground needs robots, right?

Buyers of the Pepper 'emotional' robot have to sign a good behavior release.

Don't want to wait for an item because you can't make it?  Send a telepresence bot!

Timing can be better!  The day after a Target store in Brooklyn announces it will be unionizing, Target announces its interest in robotic and information solutions to improve costs, etc.  It invested in a startup accelerator for that purpose.

Rethink Robotics' Sawyer goes on sale and Rethink gets profiled.

Thiel Backed Auris Surgical Robotics raised $150 Million.

Surgical bots are already helping out.

China is embracing robots in its factories.  What will they do with the workers?

The Russians have unveiled a creepy cockroach looking spy robot.

Savioke's attempts to bring robot delivery into the hotel are looked at again.

5 robots that could possibly revolutionize industry.

Bad professor white board writing might get a hand from the robopocalypse!


Sometimes the Robopocalypse can be fun.
The Cerberus equipment adds video feeds and more from dogs.

Using self driving cars as an example, here's a call for medical devices to develop in a similar way to save lives.

A paralyzed man has been granted the ability to walk by allowing his brain to communicate directly with the limbs through implants.

Machine Learning:

Machine learning algorithms may be able to better predict whether or not various breast cancer treatments will work.

How can machines forget something?

Machine learning is being unleashed to track down the sources of Ebola.

Watson is being used to study the public's vacation photos. 

Watson may also be used for teaching robots social skills.  What could possibly go wrong, Mr Connor?

Body language is the next great frontier for Watson et al.

Software bots:

Software bots are already changing outsourcing is conducted.

Virtual assistants are the prototypes for tomorrow's bots.


MarketWatch contrasts the regulatory environment between drones and self driving cars.


Should we worry about the machine uprising?  Or will the bots not only take our jobs but our very LIVES?!

Our expectations of bots have been overinflated in a big, big way.

How Many Space Launch System Launches Needed for a NASA Mars Mission?

As NASA continues to develop their plans for delivering humans to the Martian system in the 2030s, a Technical Interchange Meeting has outlined two potential hardware launch sequence options for NASA’s upcoming heavy lift rocket, SLS, that would enable the space agency to utilize SLS’s capabilities while realizing human exploration of Mars.


A Phobos mission in 2033 assumes the introduction of the SLS Block 2B variant of the Heavy Lift Vehicle in 2028, with an annual flight rate of one to two launches.

The two Phobos dedicated flights of SLS in 2028 would take the Phobos Hab and Phobos Exploration Vehicle (PEV) elements to Cis-lunar space as well as the SEP for the Hab module.

This would be followed by two SLS flights in 2029 bringing the Trans-Earth Injection (TEI) stage (and its SEP) to Cis-lunar space as well as the second flight, which would bring up a crew to perform final check outs of the Phobos Hab module.

The year 2030 would then see the launch of the Earth Orbit Insertion (EOI) stage and taxi elements (with their SEP elements).

At this point, all the launched hardware would then depart Cis-lunar space and be pre-deployed to Mars.

In 2031, the Mars Transit Hab (or Deep Space Hab) would be launched, followed in
2032 by the launches of the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) and Trans-Mars Injection (TMI) stages in two separate SLS missions.

The launch of the first Phobos crew to the Transit Hab would take place in 2033.

Assuming a full duration, approximately 500 day mission, the final SLS launch needed for the human Phobos mission would occur in 2035, when an SLS rocket would launch and Orion crew capsule to retrieve the Phobos crew following their return to Cis-lunar space.

In all, this campaign would see the SLS deliver a total mass of 394.5t to Cis-lunar space.


Build up for the first human Mars mission would commence in 2033 with the launch of an SLS mission to deliver the TEI stage to Cis-lunar space.

This would be followed in 2034 by the launch of the first two Mars Surface Landers on two separate SLS missions.

The year 2035 would then see two more SLS missions, with the launches of the third and fourth Mars Surface Landers.

This would be followed in 2036 with the launch of the fifth and final Mars Surface Lander.

With the launch of the fifth lander, all pre-deployment payloads for the first human Mars mission will have been launched.

The year 2036 would then see the launch of the EOI stage before the 2037 launches of the MOI and TMI stages on two separate SLS launches.

In 2038, a crewed mission of Orion and SLS would bring a check out crew on a restock mission to the Mars Transit Habitat — which would have returned to Cis-lunar space in late 2035 from the human Phobos mission.

If those checkouts and restocks are successful, the first crew for Mars would then launch in 2039 to the Mars Transit Habitat before departing Cis-lunar space for Mars.

Assuming a nominal mission, a single SLS flight would be needed in 2042 to launch an Orion capsule to retrieve the first Mars crew and their cargo following their return to Cis-lunar space.

For the first human mission to Mars, SLS’s launch campaign will see it deliver 630.7t of mass to Cis-lunar space.

The 3 Story Floating Farm Proposal

With the world’s population expected to hit 9.1 billion by 2050, coupled with the growing effects of climate change on our ability to grow crops, a company out of Barcelona has proposed a solution to feeding the future world. Forward Thinking Architecture's triple-decker Smart Floating Farms would feature 2.2 million square feet (2.04 sq km) of fish farm, hydroponic garden, and rooftop solar panels to power a floating barge, which could be anchored to the beds of oceans, lakes or rivers. The company estimates that each of its floating farms could produce about 8 tons (7.3 tonnes) of vegetables and 1.7 tons (1.5 tonnes) of fish per year.

The floating farms are intended to provide a solution that can keep up with food production levels that will have to increase by 70 percent globally, and 100 percent in developing nations, to feed more than 9 billion mouths. With so many people, arable land would be stretched to its growing capacity (we’re currently using 80 percent), while fresh water supplies would be severely stressed. Oceans are also being overfished at present.

The company’s idea to move farms onto the surface of water would address all those issues. Each level of the triple-decker farm would have its own function, and would operate as part of a sustainable loop that feeds into the other decks.

Russian Pop Press Claim: Egypt Buying 50 Ka-52k Naval Attack Helicopters for use on Mistrals

TASS says Egypt has agreed to buy over 50 Ka-52 naval helicopters that Russia had produce to deploy on the Mistral helicopter carriers.

Catalonian Separatists win Majority in Election, but Lack Unequivocal Secession Mandate

Parties pushing for independence from Spain won a majority of seats in Catalonia's regional Parliament in a ballot Sunday, but failed to secure more than 50 percent of the popular vote in an election they had hoped would give them a clear, unequivocal mandate for secession.

With 90 percent of the votes counted, the "Together for Yes" group of secessionist parties had 63 seats in the 135-member parliament, meaning they would need to join forces with the radical Popular Unity Candidacy party — that secured 10 seats — to be able to push regional legislation through.

However, together they only won 47.6 percent of the popular vote, meaning opponents to independence were in a majority.

Is China Repeating the Mistakes of the Kaiser's Navy?

Recent Chinese pronouncements regarding the shift of their Navy from defensive to potential offensive operations contain a refrain with which naval historians are most familiar. It is a song once sung by another continental military power newly flush with a successful and expanding international economy.

China’s shift toward an offensive naval capability sounds very similar to the formation of the Imperial German High Seas Fleet (Hochseeflotte) in 1907. The Chinese and Hohenzollern navies have many commonalities in origin, training and choice of force structure. Their strategy, operational art and tactics are also remarkably similar to Kaiser Wilhelm’s fleet of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Chinese Navy may have also replicated the fatal flaw that left the High Seas Fleet incapable of achieving the victory it came so close to achieving in late 1917. Like the German imperial elite of the late 19th century, the Chinese Communist Party is now also seeking “a place in the sun” through President Hu Jinatao’s “new historic missions” assignment of 2004. China may too think that “its future is on the water” as did the Kaiser’s navy over a century ago. Such visions, however, for a fleet that has not seen battle against a peer opponent since 1894, can be dangerous.

Zumwalt Destroyer Procurement Gets Savaged

Though a well worn phrase, we really can learn more from our failures than our successes. That only works if you are willing to accept your failures, identify what led to them, and strive to both understand not only the failure itself, but the steps that led you there.

By almost any measure, SC-21/DD-21/DD-X/DDG-1000 has been a failure. One of the best things we did was to halt the program at three ships. The better route might have been to just cancel it altogether, but I think good people can disagree on if there is value in keeping what we have as a technology demonstrator that will deploy now and then so we can harvest the good ideas for future programs. An expensive lesson, but a turnip that does have some blood.

The rump-DDG-1000 class is also a perfect icon of the Age of Transformationalism. As with all the programs of that era, we will continue throwing seabags full of money at the problem to try make the best it.

On the surface side of the house, there are the three Hulls of Transformationalism, LCS; LPD-17, and our bespotted DDG-1000. As was foretold, with enough money the Tiffany LPD-17 class would be made functional. That gilded line that leads to acceptable adequacy has yet to be made with LCS/FF, but as of now we are fully vested in making the best of that too – and eventually we will. All will be content as long as no one looks at the opportunity cost and what might have been done if we did not fully embrace the Cataclysm of the Age of Transformationalism.

Antarctic ice Growth Before and After the Eocene-Oligocene Transition

Antarctic ice growth before and after the Eocene-Oligocene Transition: New estimates from clumped isotope paleothermometry


Petersen et al


Across the Eocene-Oligocene transition, the oxygen isotopic composition (δ18O) of benthic and planktonic foraminifera increased by over 1‰. This shift is thought to represent a combination of global cooling and the growth of a large ice sheet on the Antarctic continent. To determine the contribution of each of these factors to the total change in δ18O, we measured the clumped isotopic composition of planktonic foraminifera tests from ODP Site 689 in the Southern Ocean. Near-surface temperatures were ~12°C in the intervals 0-1.5 Myr before and 1-2 Myr after the major (Oi-1) transition, in agreement with estimates made using other proxies at nearby sites. Temperatures cooled by 0.4 ± 1.1°C between these intervals, indicating that the long-term change in δ18O seen in planktonic foraminifera at this site is predominantly due to changes in ice volume. A larger instantaneous cooling may have occurred during Oi-1, but is not captured in this study due to sampling resolution. The corresponding change in the isotopic composition of seawater (δ18Osw) is 0.75 ± 0.23‰, which is within the range of previous estimates, and represents global ice growth equivalent to roughly ~110-120% of the volume of the modern Antarctic Ice Sheet, or ~80-90m of eustatic sea level change.

Not Drought Shamed yet

It was a pretty picture.  However, walking through chunks of Orinda and Lafayette, I've noticed some folks and businesses are still watering like they did before the drought.  Not cool, guys.  Not cool at all.

Multiple Tooth-rowed Captorhinids from the Early Permian Oklahoma

Multiple tooth-rowed captorhinids from the Early Permian fissure fills of the Bally Mountain Locality of Oklahoma


Leblanc et al


Captorhinids were Paleozoic eureptiles that originated in the Late Pennsylvanian in Laurasia and dispersed across the major landmasses of Pangaea by the Late Permian. Their evolutionary success as omnivorous and herbivorous members of Permian terrestrial communities has been attributed to the evolution of multiple marginal tooth rows. Multiple tooth rows evolved at least twice within Captorhinidae: once in the omnivorous Captorhinus aguti and again in the diverse subfamily of herbivorous moradisaurines. The earliest known moradisaurines co-occured with C. aguti in Lower Permian strata of Texas; however C. aguti is also known from much older fissure fills in the famous Dolese Brothers quarry near Richards Spur, Oklahoma, suggesting that C. aguti preceded any other multiple-rowed captorhinid. Here we report on new material of multiple-rowed captorhinids from the Lower Permian fissure fills of the Bally Mountain locality in Oklahoma, only 35 miles from Richards Spur. Some of this material is referrable to Captorhinikos valensis, which was previously only known from younger strata in Texas, making this species the geologically and phylogenetically oldest moradisaurine. Furthermore, we determined that Ca. valensis co-existed with C. aguti at Bally Mountain and we explore the potential for niche partitioning in these early captorhinids. Lastly, we assess the potential temporal and environmental differences between Bally Mountain and Richards Spur, in order to explain the abundance of herbivorous moradisaurines at Bally Mountain and the complete lack of moradisaurines at the neighbouring Richards Spur locality.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Uncertainties of the Catalonian Secession Success and Implications

BENIGNO ROMERO, a Catalan taxi driver, reached coyly into his pocket and produced a key-ring bearing the horizontal gold-and-red striped flag of Spain. “I respect everyone else’s opinion. But if we get independence our pensions will go and this will be like Venezuela,” he said. Mr Romero’s worries reflect an increasingly bitter debate in this wealthy corner of north-east Spain as it prepares for elections that could bring a unilateral declaration of independence within 18 months.


The vote is tomorrow.  yikes.

Why are America's new Trade Deals Collapsing?

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Washington this week on an official state visit. President Obama had hoped to impress Xi with an all but sealed trade deal with major Pacific nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to demonstrate that America is still a force to be reckoned with in China's backyard.

But Obama's trade policy is in tatters. The grand design, created by Obama's old friend and former Wall Street deal-maker, trade chief Mike Froman, comes in two parts: a grand bargain with Pacific nations aimed at building a U.S.-led trading bloc to contain the influence of China, and an Atlantic agreement to cement economic relations with the European Union.

Both are on the verge of collapse from their own contradictory goals and incoherent logic.

Increased Education for Women NOT Delaying First Child Birth in Malawi

The age at first birth in Malawi has remained constant from 1992 to 2010, despite expanded access to education for girls. Social demographer Monica Grant explores this finding in a new Population Development and Review paper, noting that it does not imply that women would have been better off in the absence of recent education policies.

Dr. Grant notes that young women in Malawi will hopefully be able to translate their expanded educational opportunities into improved health and well-being for their children, even without a rise in the age at first birth.

Revised Designs for Lucas' Museum in Chicago


The Smog Free Tower


1075 Market Street


Salmon Fishing at the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Alaska

Early human use of anadromous salmon in North America at 11,500 y ago


Halffman et al


Salmon represented a critical resource for prehistoric foragers along the North Pacific Rim, and continue to be economically and culturally important; however, the origins of salmon exploitation remain unresolved. Here we report 11,500-y-old salmon associated with a cooking hearth and human burials from the Upward Sun River Site, near the modern extreme edge of salmon habitat in central Alaska. This represents the earliest known human use of salmon in North America. Ancient DNA analyses establish the species as Oncorhynchus keta (chum salmon), and stable isotope analyses indicate anadromy, suggesting that salmon runs were established by at least the terminal Pleistocene. The early use of this resource has important implications for Paleoindian land use, economy, and expansions into northwest North America.


Cladistic analysis of Caseid Synapsids

Cladistic analysis of Caseidae (Caseasauria, Synapsida): using the gap-weighting method to include taxa based on incomplete specimens


Romano et al


Occupying the role of primary consumer and having an early–middle Permian age range, caseids (Caseasauria, Synapsida) are fundamental to the interpretation of the early history of terrestrial vertebrate ecosystems. Despite this importance, no comprehensive, species-level phylogenetic study of Caseidae has yet been performed. Herein, we present a phylogenetic analysis of the group, using gap weighting to include poorly known taxa. Besides the description and comments on the resultant topologies, some more general issues concerning cladistic methodologies are briefly addressed. This study highlights the importance of a total-evidence approach, including as many within-group taxa and characters as possible. Continuously varying characters, in the form of indices derived from measurement of individual skeletal elements, proved to be highly important, adding significantly to the resolution of, and support for, recovered trees. The utility of the postcranial skeleton in understanding relationships among basal synapsids is highlighted.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Commercial Space Stations Face Significant Hurdles

Proposals to develop commercial space stations in low Earth orbit that could serve as successors to the International Space Station face both an uncertain regulatory environment and questions about their economic viability, according to both those planning such stations and those who might regulate them.

At a panel discussion on commercial space stations held here Sept. 22 by the Secure World Foundation, government and industry officials noted that such facilities fall into a regulatory gray area, with no U.S. government agency having clear oversight of them as required by international treaty.

“I’m not a fan of regulation, but I do think this could create problems when you ask for a launch license or payload review,” said Mike Gold, director of Washington operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace, a North Las Vegas, Nevada-based company planning commercial stations.

Gold noted that Article 6 of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 requires governments to perform “continuing supervision” of space activities of entities under its jurisdiction, like companies. That supervision is carried out for some other space activities, like licensing of commercial remote sensing satellites by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and of communications satellites by the Federal Communications Commission.

Some in industry have proposed that the Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses commercial launches and reentries, take on that oversight role for other commercial space activities. Gold said he envisioned a relatively simple system where companies registered their spacecraft with the FAA and informed them of any significant changes. “I think that would meet the Outer Space Treaty’s obligations and create the environment of certainty and predictability that industry and investors need,” he said.

The FAA is interested in taking on that responsibility. “We’re going to continue to work within government to put together the right oversight framework,” said Steph Earle of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). That would, he noted, ultimately require congressional action to give the FAA that authority.

Earle added that he believed the FAA would be a better fit for regulating commercial space stations than other agencies, like the FCC and NOAA. “It doesn’t seem that the other agencies are well suited to this, and the FAA thinks that it is,” he said.

The Clinical use of Synthetic Biology

Engineered systems of genes and other molecular components created through synthetic biology make medical treatments more effective and promise cures for a range of health problems. Perhaps equally important, recent technologies make it easier for a broader range of scientists to apply synthetic-biology approaches that drive expanding clinical applications, from designing new diagnostics and building molecularly engineered tissues to developing new drugs and vaccines.

Research Suggests Warming Polar Winter is not Biologically Quiet

You might expect that little happens in the Arctic Ocean during the cold and dark winter. But that just isn't so, according to researchers who have sampled the activities of many different species during three consecutive winters in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Their findings are published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on September 24.

"This once and for all changes the way we think of marine ecosystems during the polar night," says Jørgen Berge of UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the University Centre in Svalbard.

"The dark polar night is not a period without any biological activity [as had been assumed]. Concealed behind the curtain of darkness is a world of activity, beauty, and ecosystem importance."

Berge says the researchers were inspired to look more closely at what happens during the polar night based on a chance encounter they had on a small boat in the middle of a Svalbard fjord.

"Above us was a starry, winter night and below us were countless blue-green 'stars' in the deep" produced by bioluminescent organisms, Berge says. "The beauty of it was stunning, and the fact that so many organisms were producing light was a strong indication that the system was not in a resting mode."