Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is China Going to Trigger a Global Recession Soon?

Several leading mainstream economic institutions are warning of the risk of the coming global economic crisis. On 8 September, the Citi Group published a research report, “Is China Leading the World into Recession?”, written by Willem Buiter, Citi’s chief economist. The report warns that “a global recession starting in 2016, led by China is now our Global Economics team’s main scenario. Uncertainty remains, but the likelihood of a timely and effective policy response seems to be diminishing.”

Hat tip to Randy.

You Will NOT be Uploaded: a Most Excellent Rant about The Human Brain Project

This is a guest post [on a blog I am linking to, ed] by a neuroscientist who may or may not be a graduate student somewhere in Massachusetts.

You asked me about the Human Brain Project. Well, there is only one way to properly address that topic: with a rant.

Henry Markram at EPFL in Switzerland was the leader of the “Blue Brain” project, to simulate a brain (well, actually just one cubic millimeter of a mouse brain) on an IBM Blue-Gene supercomputer. He got tons of money for this project, including the IBM supercomputer for the simulations. Of course he never published anything showing that these simulations lead to any understanding of brain function whatsoever. But he did create a team of graphics professionals to make cool pictures of the simulations. Building on this “success”, he led the “Human Brain” EU flagship project into being funded by some miracle of bureaucratic gullibility. The clearly promised goal was simulating a human brain (hence the name of the project). Almost everyone in Europe publicly supported the project, although in private the neuroscientists (who, if they have done any simulations, know that the stated goal is completely absurd) would say something more like “hey, maybe it’s crazy, but it’ll bring a bunch of money.”

Now, some simple observations must be made, which are true now, and will still be true in ten years’ time, at the conclusion of this flagship project

Europa Predicted to Have Tenuous Oxygen Atmosphere

Europa’s atmospheric neutral escape: Importance of symmetrical O2 charge exchange


Dols et al


We model the interaction of the jovian magnetospheric plasma with the atmosphere of Europa using a multi-species chemistry model where the atmospheric distributions of H2 and O2 are prescribed. The plasma flow is idealized as an incompressible flow around a conducting obstacle. We compute changes in plasma composition resulting from this interaction as well as the reaction rates integrated over the simulation domain for several upstream plasma conditions (ion density, ion temperature and flow velocity). We show that for all cases, the main atmospheric loss process is a cascade of symmetrical charge exchanges on O2, which results in the ejection of neutrals. The production rate of ejected neutrals is about an order of magnitude larger than the production of ions. This conclusion is relevant to future missions to Europa that aim to detect fast neutrals. The neutral ejection resulting from this charge exchange creates an oxygen cloud around the orbit of the moon that is very extended radially but also very tenuous, and has not yet been directly detected.

Large Pleistocene Carnivores had a Huge Impact on the Ecology

The impact of large terrestrial carnivores on Pleistocene ecosystems


Van Valkenburgh et al


Large mammalian terrestrial herbivores, such as elephants, have dramatic effects on the ecosystems they inhabit and at high population densities their environmental impacts can be devastating. Pleistocene terrestrial ecosystems included a much greater diversity of megaherbivores (e.g., mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths) and thus a greater potential for widespread habitat degradation if population sizes were not limited. Nevertheless, based on modern observations, it is generally believed that populations of megaherbivores (>800 kg) are largely immune to the effects of predation and this perception has been extended into the Pleistocene. However, as shown here, the species richness of big carnivores was greater in the Pleistocene and many of them were significantly larger than their modern counterparts. Fossil evidence suggests that interspecific competition among carnivores was relatively intense and reveals that some individuals specialized in consuming megaherbivores. To estimate the potential impact of Pleistocene large carnivores, we use both historic and modern data on predator–prey body mass relationships to predict size ranges of their typical and maximum prey when hunting as individuals and in groups. These prey size ranges are then compared with estimates of juvenile and subadult proboscidean body sizes derived from extant elephant growth data. Young proboscideans at their most vulnerable age fall within the predicted prey size ranges of many of the Pleistocene carnivores. Predation on juveniles can have a greater impact on megaherbivores because of their long interbirth intervals, and consequently, we argue that Pleistocene carnivores had the capacity to, and likely did, limit megaherbivore population sizes.

Holy Mammoth Farts! Estimating the Atmospheric Methane Budget With Global PreExtinction Megafauna

Exploring the influence of ancient and historic megaherbivore extirpations on the global methane budget


Smith et al


Globally, large-bodied wild mammals are in peril. Because “megamammals” have a disproportionate influence on vegetation, trophic interactions, and ecosystem function, declining populations are of considerable conservation concern. However, this is not new; trophic downgrading occurred in the past, including the African rinderpest epizootic of the 1890s, the massive Great Plains bison kill-off in the 1860s, and the terminal Pleistocene extinction of megafauna. Examining the consequences of these earlier events yields insights into contemporary ecosystem function. Here, we focus on changes in methane emissions, produced as a byproduct of enteric fermentation by herbivores. Although methane is ∼200 times less abundant than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the greater efficiency of methane in trapping radiation leads to a significant role in radiative forcing of climate. Using global datasets of late Quaternary mammals, domestic livestock, and human population from the United Nations as well as literature sources, we develop a series of allometric regressions relating mammal body mass to population density and CH4 production, which allows estimation of methane production by wild and domestic herbivores for each historic or ancient time period. We find the extirpation of megaherbivores reduced global enteric emissions between 2.2–69.6 Tg CH4 y−1 during the various time periods, representing a decrease of 0.8–34.8% of the overall inputs to tropospheric input. Our analyses suggest that large-bodied mammals have a greater influence on methane emissions than previously appreciated and, further, that changes in the source pool from herbivores can influence global biogeochemical cycles and, potentially, climate.

Nearly Wiping out Sea Otters Helped Drive Stellar Sea Cows to Extinction

Sea otters, kelp forests, and the extinction of Steller’s sea cow


Estes et al


The late Pleistocene extinction of so many large-bodied vertebrates has been variously attributed to two general causes: rapid climate change and the effects of humans as they spread from the Old World to previously uninhabited continents and islands. Many large-bodied vertebrates, especially large apex predators, maintain their associated ecosystems through top-down forcing processes, especially trophic cascades, and megaherbivores also exert an array of strong indirect effects on their communities. Thus, a third possibility for at least some of the Pleistocene extinctions is that they occurred through habitat changes resulting from the loss of these other keystone species. Here we explore the plausibility of this mechanism, using information on sea otters, kelp forests, and the recent extinction of Steller's sea cows from the Commander Islands. Large numbers of sea cows occurred in the Commander Islands at the time of their discovery by Europeans in 1741. Although extinction of these last remaining sea cows during early years of the Pacific maritime fur trade is widely thought to be a consequence of direct human overkill, we show that it is also a probable consequence of the loss of sea otters and the co-occurring loss of kelp, even if not a single sea cow had been killed directly by humans. This example supports the hypothesis that the directly caused extinctions of a few large vertebrates in the late Pleistocene may have resulted in the coextinction of numerous other species.

Evidence of Well Mixed PeriTethys Basins in the Late Callovian/Early Kimmeridgian Jurassic Jura Mountains in Poland?

Seawater temperatures and carbon isotope variations in central European basins at the Middle–Late Jurassic transition (Late Callovian–Early Kimmeridgian)




Oxygen and carbon isotope values and elemental ratios of well-preserved belemnite rostra, brachiopod shells and bulk-carbonates from the Upper Callovian–Lower Kimmeridgian of the Polish Jura Chain, Kujawy (Poland) and Swabian Alb (Germany) are investigated to reconstruct environmental conditions and perturbations in the marine carbon cycle. Belemnite δ18O values show relatively constant temperatures (ca. 12 °C) of bottom waters in the Polish Jura Chain basin during a major part of the Late Callovian–Middle Oxfordian, except for a short-term cooling (to ca. 9 °C) at the Callovian–Oxfordian transition. Belemnite and brachiopod δ18O values show a gradual increase in temperature during the Submediterranean Late Oxfordian; the highest temperatures (ca. 16 °C) are calculated for the Submediterranean Oxfordian–Kimmeridgian transition. Belemnite and brachiopod Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios are disregarded as a paleotemperature proxy because of their weak correlation with δ18O values.

The belemnite and brachiopod isotope data confirm that the carbon isotope composition of belemnite rostra is affected by a metabolic effect, which results in a depletion of belemnite calcite in the 13C isotope. Belemnite rostra are considered, nevertheless, as a valuable tracer of temporal variations in the carbon isotope composition of marine carbonates. Belemnite δ13C data show the presence of two positive excursions (in the Upper Callovian and the Middle Oxfordian) in the carbon isotope record of peri-Tethyan carbonates. The excursions are divided by a Lower Oxfordian interval characterized by decreased δ13C values. This is most likely a regional feature caused by upwelling. Lowest belemnite and brachiopod δ13C values are observed in the lower part of the Submediterranean Upper Oxfordian and are linked to a well-mixed state of the seawater in the basins studied. The carbon isotope record of bulk carbonates differs from those of belemnites and brachiopods probably because of strong variations in carbonate production in the Polish Jura Chain basin.

Radiocarbon Dating Further Supports Human Overkill Hypothesis

Radiocarbon analysis of the decline and extinction of large mammals in the Americas lends support to the idea that hunting by humans led to the animals' demise -- and backs the generally accepted understanding of when humans arrived in, and how they colonized, the Western Hemisphere.

Those findings by University of Wyoming researchers are reported this week in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a major scientific journal. The study was conducted by Professor Todd Surovell and graduate student Spencer Pelton in UW's Department of Anthropology; Professor Richard Anderson-Sprecher in the Department of Statistics; and Assistant Professor Adam Myers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Their work supports a hypothesis forwarded in 1973 by well-known geoscientist Paul Martin that the chronology of the extinction of animals such as mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses and ground sloths in the Americas could be used to map the spread of humans through the New World.

"The heavy ecological footprint of human societies throughout prehistory is becoming increasingly apparent through a variety of environmental (indicators) independent of the archeological record," the researchers wrote. "Past human societies have disrupted ecological communities in dramatic ways for many tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of years."

The study involved compiling radiocarbon dates from fossils of now-extinct animals from North and South America, and looking at how those dates correspond with initial evidence of human colonization. The researchers found that, as Martin predicted, decline and extinction of the large mammals began between 13,300-15,000 years ago in Alaska and areas near the Bering Strait; between 12,900-13,200 years ago in the contiguous United States; and between 12,600-13,900 years ago in South America.

That supports the generally accepted understanding of how humans colonized the Americas: first, that they crossed from Siberia to Alaska across a Bering Strait land bridge; and then that they moved southward across North America and into South America. Hunting of the native large mammals is thought to have fueled rapid human population growth and expansion.

A number of hypotheses have been forwarded to explain the extinction of those animals. The "overkill hypothesis" connects their demise directly to overhunting by humans, and that is supported by the north-to-south extinction trend observed in the new study.

Something "Scary" for Halloween

This is a security company.

The BRAAAAAAAAAAAINNNNNSSSSS of Cambrian Euarhropod Fuxianhuia protensa

Preservational Pathways of Corresponding Brains of a Cambrian Euarthropod


Ma et al


The record of arthropod body fossils is traceable back to the “Cambrian explosion,” marked by the appearance of most major animal phyla. Exceptional preservation provides crucial evidence for panarthropod early radiation. However, due to limited representation in the fossil record of internal anatomy, particularly the CNS, studies usually rely on exoskeletal and appendicular morphology. Recent studies [ 1–3 ] show that despite extreme morphological disparities, euarthropod CNS evolution appears to have been remarkably conservative. This conclusion is supported by descriptions from Cambrian panarthropods of neural structures that contribute to understanding early evolution of nervous systems and resolving controversies about segmental homologies [ 4–12 ]. However, the rarity of fossilized CNSs, even when exoskeletons and appendages show high levels of integrity, brought into question data reproducibility because all but one of the aforementioned studies were based on single specimens [ 13 ]. Foremost among objections is the lack of taphonomic explanation for exceptional preservation of a tissue that some see as too prone to decay to be fossilized. Here we describe newly discovered specimens of the Chengjiang euarthropod Fuxianhuia protensa with fossilized brains revealing matching profiles, allowing rigorous testing of the reproducibility of cerebral structures. Their geochemical analyses provide crucial insights of taphonomic pathways for brain preservation, ranging from uniform carbon compressions to complete pyritization, revealing that neural tissue was initially preserved as carbonaceous film and subsequently pyritized. This mode of preservation is consistent with the taphonomic pathways of gross anatomy, indicating that no special mode is required for fossilization of labile neural tissue.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Extraordinary Claim by China: Will Double Economy by 2020

China's leaders on Thursday affirmed plans to double the size of the country's economy by 2020 from 2010 levels, a goal that sets up a potential clash with efforts to nurture more self-sustaining growth.

Communist Party leaders are struggling with conflicting goals of pushing ahead a painful economic restructuring and preventing growth that declined to a six-year low of 6.9 percent last quarter from falling too low, leading to potential job losses and unrest.

Thursday's pledge followed a meeting aimed at crafting a development plan for the rest of this decade. Such Soviet-style five-year plans are a throwback to central planning but guide official policy and highlight party goals.

In a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, party leaders affirmed plans to develop a consumer economy and promote technology to replace a worn-out model based on trade and investment.

Rewilding. What's Next?

Science for a wilder Anthropocene: Synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research


Svenning et al


Trophic rewilding is an ecological restoration strategy that uses species introductions to restore top-down trophic interactions and associated trophic cascades to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. Given the importance of large animals in trophic cascades and their widespread losses and resulting trophic downgrading, it often focuses on restoring functional megafaunas. Trophic rewilding is increasingly being implemented for conservation, but remains controversial. Here, we provide a synthesis of its current scientific basis, highlighting trophic cascades as the key conceptual framework, discussing the main lessons learned from ongoing rewilding projects, systematically reviewing the current literature, and highlighting unintentional rewilding and spontaneous wildlife comebacks as underused sources of information. Together, these lines of evidence show that trophic cascades may be restored via species reintroductions and ecological replacements. It is clear, however, that megafauna effects may be affected by poorly understood trophic complexity effects and interactions with landscape settings, human activities, and other factors. Unfortunately, empirical research on trophic rewilding is still rare, fragmented, and geographically biased, with the literature dominated by essays and opinion pieces. We highlight the need for applied programs to include hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring, and outline priorities for future research, notably assessing the role of trophic complexity, interplay with landscape settings, land use, and climate change, as well as developing the global scope for rewilding and tools to optimize benefits and reduce human–wildlife conflicts. Finally, we recommend developing a decision framework for species selection, building on functional and phylogenetic information and with attention to the potential contribution from synthetic biology.

Enceladus' Plumes are 1/6th the Mass Previously Thought

Aggregate particles in the plumes of Enceladus


Gao et al


Estimates of the total particulate mass of the plumes of Enceladus are important to constrain theories of particle formation and transport at the surface and interior of the satellite. We revisit the calculations of Ingersoll and Ewald (Ingersoll, A.P., Ewald, S.P. [2011]. Icarus 216(2), 492–506), who estimated the particulate mass of the Enceladus plumes from strongly forward scattered light in Cassini ISS images. We model the plume as a combination of spherical particles and irregular aggregates resulting from the coagulation of spherical monomers, the latter of which allows for plumes of lower particulate mass. Though a continuum of solutions are permitted by the model, the best fits to the ISS data consist either of low mass plumes composed entirely of small aggregates or high mass plumes composed of mostly spheres. The high particulate mass plumes have total particulate masses of (166 ± 42) × 103 kg, consistent with the results of Ingersoll and Ewald (Ingersoll, A.P., Ewald, S.P. [2011]. Icarus 216(2), 492–506). The low particulate mass plumes have masses of (25 ± 4) × 103 kg, leading to a solid to vapor mass ratio of 0.07 ± 0.01 for the plume. If indeed the plumes are made of such aggregates, then a vapor-based origin for the plume particles cannot be ruled out. Finally, we show that the residence time of the monomers inside the plume vents is sufficiently long for Brownian coagulation to form the aggregates before they are ejected to space.

Genetically Engineered Virus Developed for Fighting Cancer Approved by US Food and Drug Administration

An engineered herpesvirus that provokes an immune response against cancer has become the first treatment of its kind to be approved for use in the United States, paving the way for a long-awaited class of therapies. On 27 October, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a genetically engineered virus called talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) to treat advanced melanoma. Four days earlier, advisers to the European Medicines Agency had endorsed the drug.

With dozens of ongoing clinical trials of similar ‘oncolytic’ viruses, researchers hope that the approval will generate the enthusiasm and cash needed to spur further development of the approach. “The era of the oncolytic virus is probably here,” says Stephen Russell, a cancer researcher and haematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “I expect to see a great deal happening over the next few years.”

Many viruses preferentially infect cancer cells. Malignancy can suppress normal antiviral responses, and sometimes the mutations that drive tumour growth also make cells more susceptible to infection. Viral infection can thus ravage a tumour while leaving abutting healthy cells untouched, says Brad Thompson, president of the pharmaceutical-development firm Oncolytics Biotech in Calgary, Canada.

US Navy Buying 15 EF/A-18Gs

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is being awarded an $897,530,175 modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-firm contract (N00019-14-C-0032) for the procurement of 15 Lot 38 full-rate production EA-18G aircraft and associated airborne electronic attack kits. Work will be performed in El Segundo, California (40.3 percent); St. Louis, Missouri (24.1 percent); Bethpage, New York (18.5 percent); Cleveland, Ohio (1.7 percent); Bloomington, Minnesota (1.5 percent); Mesa, Arizona (1.3 percent); Torrance, California (1.3 percent); Vandalia, Ohio (1.1 percent); Ajax, California (1.1 percent); Irvine, California (0.8 percent); Santa Clarita, California (0.6 percent); South Korea (0.6 percent); and various other locations in the continental U.S. (7.1 percent). Work is expected to be completed in January 2018. Fiscal 2015 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $897,530,175 are being obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

US Navy Wants a Modular, Heavy Weight Replacement for Mk 46 Torpedo

The Navy hopes to restart its heavyweight torpedo program after a more than 15-year hiatus in production, but those plans could be hampered by a long-term continuing resolution.

Director of Undersea Warfare Rear Adm. Charles Richard left no doubt about his need for the program: “I have to go get that line started,” he said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium.

Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at the same event that the submarine community is currently limited to the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, the Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo and the Tomahawk missile.

“That’s really not that great, that’s not a good state of affairs,” he said.
“Now there’s a number of programs in the [research and development] area that I can’t discuss here, but we are looking at other weapons – but I say to the community we need to do a better job giving the warfighter more weapons here.”

And that limited selection of weapons is aging, he said. Discussing the Mk 48 Mod 7, the newest of the torpedoes, Drakeley said, “we refurbish these, we use them a lot, we fire them for training and then bring them back and refurb and reuse, but they’re getting old. And though when you look at the picture of it it looks like it’s kind of a modular weapon, we really have only been upgrading the forward part with the sonars and the electronics. So in the torpedo restart, we are going to be making this a truly modular design that you can pull out a section and plug in different payloads or different propulsion systems or different fuel supplies, and so as you’re developing the payloads you ought to be thinking about how you integrate with the modular Mk 48 some new capabilities and the like.”

But Richard said the ability to get that modular, plug-and-play torpedo off the ground could be hurt by the budget. The Navy is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which funds the government at last year’s levels until December. Congress appears to have reached a two-year budget deal to provide some relief from the Budget Control Act spending levels, but it is unclear if Congress will be able to pass a line-by-line spending bill by December or if the continuing resolution will be extended.

DARPA Mission Adaptive Landing Gear Program Gets Criticism

There’s been some breathless coverage of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency experiment with what look like mechanical insect legs to replace the usual wheels or skids helicopters land on. One article called the Adaptive Landing Gear nothing short of “incredible.” The video DARPA publicized is certainly fun to watch (see above), but there’s a lot less utility there than meets the eye — at least for now.

“The only thing that I can see it would have an advantage over what we have in a skid is on a slope,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, who won the Medal of Honor and a ton of other decorations for saving more than 5,000 wounded in more than 2,500 combat missions as a rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam. The Encyclopedia of the Viet Nam War calls him the conflict’s top helicopter pilot. “Looks like a big grasshopper,” Brady said of the leg-like landing gear, developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology on a roughly $1 million DARPA grant.

Another Vietnam vet, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Greene, who logged 1,900 combat hours flying South Vietnamese and U.S. troops into action in UH-1 Hueys, said the idea is “interesting” but that’s about all. “I love DARPA,” Greene said, “but this is probably not one of their better things.”

The goal is to make it possible to land on slopes or uneven or rocky terrain of the sort combat helicopter pilots often confront and end up hovering over instead of landing on or to put a bird down safely on a rolling ship deck. DARPA program manager Ashish Bagai explained in a briefing to the American Helicopter Society International’s yearly conference last May that, “The feet have tactile feedback; they have pressure feedback. Each foot is individually operated. When you encounter an obstruction, the foot that first contacts the obstruction allows the leg to bend until everything else has contacted terra firma.”

New US Army Future Veritical Lift (Helicopter/Tilt Rotor) Program Pace Depends on Budget

Science and technology officials connected to the prospective, army-lead Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme say bringing a completely new rotorcraft online requires substantial time and money, and most importantly, someone to request a new rotary wing airframe over an upgrade or life-extension of the current type. Today, there is no definitive requirement for FVL, except a general desire for greater range and speed.

FVL aims to deliver next-generation rotorcraft in light, medium and heavy-lift categories for all services, but Michael Fallon of the navy’s rotary wing science and technology office says military spending levels are the “huge determining factor” in deciding if and when long-serving aircraft types like H-1, H-60 and V-22 will be refreshed or replaced through FVL.

“It’s really going to depend on the programmes of record and if they’re going to sundown. That’s something for them to decide,” he said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington this week. “We’ll see how this plays out.”

AW609 Tilt Rotor Catches FIre, Crashes in Italy, Killing Both Test Pilots

An AgustaWestland AW609 prototype has crashed near Santhià, in northwestern Italy, killing two test pilots on Oct. 30.

The tilt-rotor aircraft had taken off from Agusta’s airfield at Vergiate and the cause of the crash is still unknown.

According to the first reports the aircraft was in fire before it crashed into the ground.

Amazing Images of Cassini's Pass Through Enceladus' Plumes


Dakotaraptor steini: a new Maastrichtian Cretaceous FEATHERED Giant Raptor



DePalma et al


Most dromaeosaurids were small- to medium-sized cursorial, scansorial, and arboreal, sometimes volant predators, but a comparatively small percentage grew to gigantic proportions. Only two such giant “raptors” have been described from North America. Here, we describe a new giant dromaeosaurid, Dakotaraptor steini gen. et sp. nov., from the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota. The discovery represents the first giant dromaeosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, and the most recent in the fossil record worldwide. A row of prominent ulnar papilli or “quill knobs” on the ulna is our first clear evidence for feather quills on a large dromaeosaurid forearm and impacts evolutionary reconstructions and functional morphology of such derived, typically flight-related features. The presence of this new predator expands our record of theropod diversity in latest Cretaceous Laramidia, and radically changes paleoecological reconstructions of the Hell Creek Formation

New Geoarchaeological Finds in Liang Bawah, the Cave Beneath

Geoarchaeological finds below Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia): A split-level cave system for Homo floresiensis?


Gagan et al


We report on new geoarchaeological finds in a recently discovered cave-chamber (Liang Bawah, “Cave Underneath”) positioned below Liang Bua on the island of Flores, Indonesia, where the type specimen for Homo floresiensis was recovered from Late Pleistocene sediment. At the rear of Liang Bua, a 23-m-long shaft, inclined at 60°, leads to a lower chamber measuring 23 m × 24 m × 5 m high (about half the size of Liang Bua). Stone artefacts and bones were found shallowly buried in rubble at the base of the shaft, and around a 5-m-high mud mound that fills the northwest sector of Liang Bawah. We recovered 17 stone artefacts made from chert and volcanics, and more than 220 well-preserved bone elements belonging to endemic giant rats, pigs, primates, small murid rodents, bats and introduced species. Multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS) analysis of uranium and thorium in carbonate coatings on four bones yielded ages of ~ 240–180 ka (endemic giant rat femur), ~ 110–60 ka (unidentified phalanx), ~ 33–23 ka (pig skull fragment), and ~ 7–3 ka (giant rat femur), which overlap with the ~ 95 to 17 ka occupation of Liang Bua by H. floresiensis. The ~ 33–23 ka age of the pig skull fragment indicates that Sus sp. may have dispersed into island Southeast Asia earlier than previously recognised. The passageway at the rear of Liang Bawah, and a currently buried front entrance, represent two possible transport paths for cultural and faunal material to the cave-chamber. Analysis of the geomorphic evolution of Liang Bawah shows that it may have been a Late Pleistocene depocentre for material transported from the occupation chamber of Liang Bua, and a repository for human subsistence refuse, or pit-fall trap, via the rear passage. These physical attributes, and the antiquity of the faunal remains found thus far, indicate that Liang Bawah could contain an archive of the Late Pleistocene and, potentially, remains of H. floresiensis.

Russia's Most Syrian Adventure #23

Supposedly at Al Harra again.

Russia claims they have hit 1623 targets in the past month.  That would imply an average of 50 targets per day.  We know they surged to nearly 100 targets a few days ago, so I wonder if they are having a significant drop off.  It would also explain why they are changing from reporting on their daily attack rate they were before.

The Russians have stated anyone fighting in Syria needs Syrian government approval to use force there.

In a twist, the US is 'sending' special forces to fight along side the Kurds.  Less than 60, supposedly, but I've heard from sources there might already be operators on the ground and I have to wonder if this is Obama telling the Russians the Kurds are off limits to bombing because they might kill Americans.  I'm not sure Putin really cares, but...

The Americans conducted 12 air strikes in the last 24 hours.

There are supposed to be more talks coming up in Vienna.  I am sure they will make as much progress as before.


Scuffle in the South China Sea #3

The Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague decided in favor of the Philippines in the suit over who has sovereignty over some of the islands in the South China Sea.

Burgess Shale-type Organisms Found in Middle Cambrian UTah

New records of Burgess Shale-type taxa from the middle Cambrian of Utah


Conway Morris et al


Cambrian strata of the Laurentian craton contain numerous examples of Burgess Shale–type faunas. Although displaying a more or less concentric distribution around the cratonal margin, most faunal occurrences are in present-day western North America, extending from the Northwest Territories to California. Nevertheless, the soft-bodied and lightly skeletalized fossils in most of these Lagerstätten are highly sporadic. Here, we extend knowledge of such Middle Cambrian occurrences in Utah with reports of four taxa. An arthropod from the Marjum Formation, Dytikosicula desmatae gen. et sp. nov., is a putative megacheiran. It is most similar to Dicranocaris guntherorum, best known from the younger Wheeler Formation, but differs primarily in the arrangement of pleurae and overall size. Along with a specimen of ?Yohoia sp, a new species of Yohoia, Y. utahana sp. nov., is described. It differs from the type and only known species, Y. tenuis, principally in its larger size and shorter exopods; it is the first description of this genus from outside the Burgess Shale. A new species of a stem-group lophotrochozoan from the Spence Shale, Wiwaxia herka sp. nov., possesses a palisade of dorso-lateral spines that are more robust and numerous than the type species of Wiwaxia, W. corrugata. Another notable taxon is Eldonia ludwigi from the Marjum Formation, which is interpreted as a primitive ambulacrarian (assigned to the cambroernids) and a new specimen of the ?cnidarian Cambrorhytium from the Wheeler Shale is illustrated.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

China Ends One Child Policy

China's ruling Communist Party announced Thursday that the country will start allowing all married couples to have two children, abolishing an unpopular policy that has limited many urban families to only one child for more than three decades.

GeoEngineering Could Reduce Total Number of Hurricanes, but Make Katrina Events Happen More Often

Atlantic hurricane surge response to geoengineering


Moore et al


Devastating floods due to Atlantic hurricanes are relatively rare events. However, the frequency of the most intense storms is likely to increase with rises in sea surface temperatures. Geoengineering by stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection cools the tropics relative to the polar regions, including the hurricane Main Development Region in the Atlantic, suggesting that geoengineering may mitigate hurricanes. We examine this hypothesis using eight earth system model simulations of climate under the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP) G3 and G4 schemes that use stratospheric aerosols to reduce the radiative forcing under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 scenario. Global mean temperature increases are greatly ameliorated by geoengineering, and tropical temperature increases are at most half of those temperature increases in the RCP4.5. However, sulfate injection would have to double (to nearly 10 teragrams of SO2 per year) between 2020 and 2070 to balance the RCP4.5, approximately the equivalent of a 1991 Pinatubo eruption every 2 y, with consequent implications for stratospheric ozone. We project changes in storm frequencies using a temperature-dependent generalized extreme value statistical model calibrated by historical storm surges and observed temperatures since 1923. The number of storm surge events as big as the one caused by the 2005 Katrina hurricane are reduced by about 50% compared with no geoengineering, but this reduction is only marginally statistically significant. Nevertheless, when sea level rise differences in 2070 between the RCP4.5 and geoengineering are factored into coastal flood risk, we find that expected flood levels are reduced by about 40 cm for 5-y events and about halved for 50-y surges.

Encledadus' Irregularly Shaped Core Caused by Very large Impacts AFTER the Late Heavy Bombardment

Consequences of large impacts on Enceladus’ core shape


Monteux et al


The intense activity on Enceladus suggests a differentiated interior consisting of a rocky core, an internal ocean and an icy mantle. However, topography and gravity data suggests large heterogeneity in the interior, possibly including significant core topography. In the present study, we investigated the consequences of collisions with large impactors on the core shape. We performed impact simulations using the code iSALE2D considering large differentiated impactors with radius ranging between 25 and 100 km and impact velocities ranging between 0.24 and 2.4 km/s. Our simulations showed that the main controlling parameters for the post-impact shape of Enceladus’ rock core are the impactor radius and velocity and to a lesser extent the presence of an internal water ocean and the porosity and strength of the rock core. For low energy impacts, the impactors do not pass completely through the icy mantle. Subsequent sinking and spreading of the impactor rock core lead to a positive core topographic anomaly. For moderately energetic impacts, the impactors completely penetrate through the icy mantle, inducing a negative core topography surrounded by a positive anomaly of smaller amplitude. The depth and lateral extent of the excavated area is mostly determined by the impactor radius and velocity. For highly energetic impacts, the rocky core is strongly deformed, and the full body is likely to be disrupted. Explaining the long-wavelength irregular shape of Enceladus’ core by impacts would imply multiple low velocity (less than 2.4 km/s) collisions with deca-kilometric differentiated impactors, which is possible only after the LHB period.

US Army JLENS Missile Defense Blimp Shot Down by Pennsylvania State Police


Should the US Air Force's Next Air Launched Cruise Missile (LRSO) be Both Conventional *AND* Nuclear Capable

Tuesday, Northrop Grumman won the contract to develop the Air Force’s next strategic bomber. Specifics about the competing designs have remained a closely-guarded secret, and the exact capabilities of the new aircraft are likely to remain classified for some time. One fact that is already known about the new bomber, however, is that, like the B-52 and the B-2 before it, it will be designed to be “dual-use,” meaning that it will be able to carry either conventional or nuclear weapons as required. Dual-use is a critical — but controversial — capability.

The Air Force is also considering whether or not to pursue a new air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The new ALCM – known in defense circles as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon – would possess advanced capabilities to increase the chances of success and against modern air defenses. Like the new bombers that may one day employ it, this missile is dual-use as well.

A Stunning Picture of Pluto's Crescent


Ukraine War Update: an Ammo Dump in Svatove, Ukraine Blew up

This is being described as an act of sabotage.

Can Russia's Shipyards Keep up With the Kremlin's Naval Ambitions

Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent reinforcement of the region’s military forces have been combined with a general increase in naval activity—including aggressive activity vis-à-vis NATO countries’ maritime interests beyond the Black Sea. All this has led to increased international interest in Russian naval modernization plans. Although this modernization effort is going slowly, the Russian Navy’s ability to place effective long-range cruise missiles on relatively small ships means that Russia remains a serious regional maritime power with the capability to threaten not only its neighbors but much of Europe in the event of a conflict.

Global Climate Perturbations During the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinctions

Rey et al


Several studies of the marine sedimentary record have documented the evolution of global climate during the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. By contrast, the continental records have been less exploited due to the scarcity of continuous sections from the latest Permian into the Early Triassic. The South African Karoo Basin exposes one of the most continuous geological successions of this time interval, thus offering the possibility to reconstruct climate variations in southern Laurasia from the Middle Permian to Middle Triassic interval. Both air temperature and humidity variations were estimated using stable oxygen (δ18Op) and carbon (δ13Cc) isotope compositions of vertebrate apatite. Significant fluctuations in both δ18Op and δ13Cc values mimic those of marine records and suggest that stable isotope compositions recorded in vertebrate apatite reflect global climate evolution. In terms of air temperature, oxygen isotopes show an abrupt increase of about + 8 °C toward the end of the Wuchiapingian. This occurred during a slight cooling trend from the Capitanian to the Permo-Triassic boundary (PTB). At the end of the Permian, an intense and fast warming of + 16 °C occurred and kept increasing during the Olenekian. These thermal fluctuations may be related to the Emeishan (South China) and Siberian volcanic paroxysms that took place at the end of the Capitanian and at the end of the Permian, respectively. Vertebrate apatite δ13Cc partly reflects the important fluctuations of the atmospheric δ13C values, the differences with marine curves being likely due to the evolution of local humidity. Both the oxygen and carbon isotope compositions indicate that the PTB was followed by a warm and arid phase that lasted 6 Ma before temperatures decreased, during the Late Anisian, toward that of the end-Permian. Environmental fluctuations occurring around the PTB that affected both continental and marine realms with similar magnitude likely originated from volcanism and methane release.

Spinal Cord Evolution in Early Homo

Spinal cord evolution in early Homo


Meyer et al


The discovery at Nariokotome of the Homo erectus skeleton KNM-WT 15000, with a narrow spinal canal, seemed to show that this relatively large-brained hominin retained the primitive spinal cord size of African apes and that brain size expansion preceded postcranial neurological evolution. Here we compare the size and shape of the KNM-WT 15000 spinal canal with modern and fossil taxa including H. erectus from Dmanisi, Homo antecessor, the European middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos, and Pan troglodytes. In terms of shape and absolute and relative size of the spinal canal, we find all of the Dmanisi and most of the vertebrae of KNM-WT 15000 are within the human range of variation except for the C7, T2, and T3 of KNM-WT 15000, which are constricted, suggesting spinal stenosis. While additional fossils might definitively indicate whether H. erectus had evolved a human-like enlarged spinal canal, the evidence from the Dmanisi spinal canal and the unaffected levels of KNM-WT 15000 show that unlike Australopithecus, H. erectus had a spinal canal size and shape equivalent to that of modern humans. Subadult status is unlikely to affect our results, as spinal canal growth is complete in both individuals. We contest the notion that vertebrae yield information about respiratory control or language evolution, but suggest that, like H. antecessor and European middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos, early Homo possessed a postcranial neurological endowment roughly commensurate to modern humans, with implications for neurological, structural, and vascular improvements over Pan and Australopithecus.

Russia's Most Syrian Adventure #22

Video claims to be from Al-Harra, about 10 km from the Israeli border.

Russia has starting attacking in the south in Syria's Daraa province.

No word yet on the number of strikes.  Russia has started briefing that information every other or every few days rather than daily as before.

Supposedly 600 have been killed in Syria to date by Russian airstrikes. 

Has the drop off in strikes in Syria really been about Russian logistical problems rather than equipment failures?

 The rebel factions apparently worked together to retake a town, , and the Russians started striking it afterwards.

The Russians claim they are actively engaged - in discussions! - with the Syrian rebels.

A Light in the Darkness

Scuffle in the South China Sea #2

The US Navy is planning to sail closer than 12 miles from the artificial islands China made in the South China Sea again.

Chinese warships shadowed the USS Lassen the first sail-by.

U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart Admiral Wu Shengli will hold a teleconference over the incident.

China is reportedly REALLY angry over the sailing and future sailings of the US Navy by its islands.

The Chinese have stated they will respond with all necessary means the next time the US does the sail-by.

China reportedly hacked the website of Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and started spreading malware from the webpage. The court is where the Phillipines filed its dispute with the Chinese over the South China Sea territorial claims.

In a bit of delicious irony, Merkel suggested China settle the South China Sea dispute in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The Proterozoic Record of Eukaryotes

The Proterozoic Record of Eukaryotes


Cohen et al


Proterozoic strata host evidence of global “Snowball Earth” glaciations, large perturbations to the carbon cycle, proposed changes in the redox state of oceans, the diversification of microscopic eukaryotes, and the rise of metazoans. Over the past half century, the number of fossils described from Proterozoic rocks has increased exponentially. These discoveries have occurred alongside an increased understanding of the Proterozoic Earth system and the geological context of fossil occurrences, including improved age constraints. However, the evaluation of relationships between Proterozoic environmental change and fossil diversity has been hampered by several factors, particularly lithological and taphonomic biases. Here we compile and analyze the current record of eukaryotic fossils in Proterozoic strata to assess the effect of biases and better constrain diversity through time. Our results show that mean within assemblage diversity increases through the Proterozoic Eon due to an increase in high diversity assemblages, and that this trend is robust to various external factors including lithology and paleogeographic location. In addition, assemblage composition changes dramatically through time. Most notably, robust recalcitrant taxa appear in the early Neoproterozoic Era, only to disappear by the beginning of the Ediacaran Period. Within assemblage diversity is significantly lower in the Cryogenian Period than in the preceding and following intervals, but the short duration of the nonglacial interlude and unusual depositional conditions may present additional biases. In general, large scale patterns of diversity are robust while smaller scale patterns are difficult to discern through the lens of lithological, taphonomic, and geographic variability.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Вспышка и взрыва, лягушка

In a troubling development, fighting flared up and down the contact line.  The fighting has been restricted to small arms, automatic grenade launchers and 82mm mortars with a trio exceptions.  Those exceptions are really worrisome. 

The Donetsk Airport has blown up again.  So has Gorlovka and Optyne.  In all three cases, tanks are being used.  These are tanks that were supposed to have been withdrawn. At the airport, reports are of artillery starting to be used, too.  Again, artillery that was supposed to be withdrawn.

Zakharchenko has made numerous demands and stated if those demands were not met, the DNR would go to war again.  The Ukrainains have flipped him the bird and stated if he does, they will immediately respond. 

I have a hard time believing Putin would allow the DNR to go to war with the Ukrainians unless he intends for them to collapse.  I don't think that's his intentions at all, so Zakharchenko will be reigned in: Putin can't afford both the war in Ukraine and the war in Syria.

However, the fighting is concerning and soldiers have been wounded and died.

  • Red - Solidarity, Poroshenko Bloc
  • Light blue - Opposition bloc (ex. Party of Regions)
  • Dark blue - Svoboda
  • White - Fatherland Party (Tymoshenko)
  • Dark Green - Self Help Party
  • Light Green - Ukrop (Dill)
  • Brown - Revival (Renaissance) Party

The fighting took place after Ukraine had country wide elections, save for in the DNR and LNR.  Poroshenko's ruling block came out with a majority, but the margin slipped.  Everyone was rather worried about Tymoshenko coming back.  Her party floundered again.  I'm ALMOST tempted to call her a political has-been.  Three interesting bits: one, the old Party of Regions reformed to some extent and took some seats in the old stopping grounds of the east and south.  Second, Ukraine's elections had some irregularities, mostly in the east, but were hailed as very clean in general by monitors.  Third, people are very unhappy with the rate of progress in the country.  They want the reforms faster.  HOWEVER!  They feel the current Poroshenko allies are the best of the lot to actually reform.

 One of the OSCE monitors was forced to resign.  He got drunk and belligerent.  It also turned out he was a Russian GRU officer!  Whoops!  It explains some of the oddities with the OSCE reports.

Common Lizards Face Threat From Climate Change

While there is no doubt that climate change is affecting many organisms, some species might be more sensitive than others. Reptiles, whose body temperature depends directly on environmental temperature, may be particularly vulnerable. Scientists have now shown experimentally that lizards cope very poorly with the climate predicted for the year 2100.

In a new study, publishing in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology on October 26th, Elvire Bestion, Julien Cote and colleagues examined the consequences of a 2°C warmer climate on the persistence of populations of common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), a widespread European reptile. Their results show that many common lizard populations could disappear rapidly as a consequence of such warmer temperatures.

"Breed fast and die young" seems to be the new mantra of common lizards in the face of climate change; it is also the conclusion reached by researchers from the Station d'écologie expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis (SEEM) and the Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB, CNRS/Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier/ENFA) who studied this small European reptile species.

Will Russia's Reserve Fund be Exhausted by end of Next Year?

Next year could become the last for the Reserve Fund, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Tuesday. The minister noted that Russia’s Reserve Fund will no longer be the main source to finance budget deficit from 2017.

"Our reserves volume [in 2015 - TASS] will decrease by approximately 2.6 trillion rubles ($40.85 bln) - more than half. This means that 2016 is the last year when we are able to spend our reserves that way. After that we will not have such resources," he said.

In the draft budget for 2016, the Reserve Fund is considered as the main source to finance the budget deficit. In particular, it is planned to allocate 2.137 trillion rubles for this purpose.

As a result, in the end of 2016 the fund will shrink to 1.051 trillion rubles ($16.4 bln), or 1.3% of GDP. In the beginning of 2015 the fund amounted to 4.946 trillion rubles ($77.161 bln), or 6.7% of GDP.

According to the 2016 budget draft by the Ministry of Finance, revenues of Russia’s federal budget for 2016 are projected at 13.577 trillion rubles ($217 bln), expenses at 15.761 trillion rubles ($252 bln), leading to budget deficit of 2.184 trillion rubles ($34.9 bln).

Venus has Stronger Surface Winds Than Earth

Surface winds on Venus: Probability distribution from in-situ measurements




A surface wind specification is needed for future landed missions to Venus. While sparse, there exist enough data from the limited surface and near-surface measurements to date to define a probability density function that guides expectations of winds for rational design of landing systems. Following a review of all available data (mostly from the Venera missions), a Weibull function, used previously for Mars and Titan, and widely used in terrestrial engineering applications, is proposed. Best-estimate wind measurements are reasonably described by P( greater than V) = exp[−(V/c)k], with c = 0.8 m/s, k = 1.9: this function yields a 95% chance of winds less than 1.4 m/s and 99% less than 1.8 m/s. A worst-case function, allowing the high end of Venera measurement uncertainties to force the fit, has slightly higher values (c = 0.9 m/s, k = 1.7; 95% wind 1.7 m/s; 99%, 2.2 m/s). The data suggest that winds strong enough to move dust and sand on Venus are rather common (more so than is typical for Mars, Earth or Titan), a prediction testable with radar interferometry on future orbital missions and/or from landed observations. More elaborate analyses should take site-specific factors such as slope or time of day into account, but cannot be meaningfully constrained by present data.

Live Blogging the Republican Debate: Masochism at its Best!

I am only going to tackle the big kid's table and IDK how long this will run: I may end up stopping early.  We shall see though.

Just found a livestream.  Here we go.

 17:25 PM PT: Oh gawd.  Paul's going to start filibuster tomorrow.  greeeaaaat.

CNBC is losing control already.

Taxes, budgets:

Trump beats his chest.

Carson says his tax plan will be at 15% for everyone and cut government.  Contradicts CNBC.

Kasich attacks others and says others are making fantasies for people.  Slamming Trump and Carson.

Trump rips Kasich.  Kasich was on Lehman Brothers board.  Claims Kasich got lucky with fracking.

Everyone is stroking the flat tax.  gah.

Fiorina snarks on point about tax reform being the perennial issue that's never finished.

Rubio.  o.O  Told to wait his turn.  He says he's the savior, hallelujah.

Bush slams Rubio.  Man, slams him hard.

Rubio: slams back.  trips Bush pretty hard so far.

Bush claims he'd be a great leader and avoids question what he is melting down.

Fiorina based on HP experience: NASDAQ dropped 80%, HP stock lost 50%, HP was dying.

Cruz: Slams the media.  has a point.  chooses not to answer the question.  bleh.

CNBC cannot keep in control.

Paul: Opposes budget deal for cutting entitlements only to increase spending more elsewhere.  Paul says blackmail how you reform government.

Christie:  Social compact broken.  Social security going bankrupt in 7 years.  uh huh  Heard this every 4 years for the last 32 years.

Huckabee: social security shouldn't be touched.   This is a matter of morality.

Christie: tell the truth.  money stolen.

Cruz: republican leadership betrayed us in congress.  Then talks about social security.  uh.

Huckabee:  means testing means government decides.  madoff did less than the government with respect to social security.

Break time.

Trump on atlantic city.  he used the law to his benefit.  that would be called 'criminal in law.'

Carson on drug prices: profiteering in drugs, yes.  turns this into regulations on small business huh???

Christie:  hypocrite.  Good grief.  You bet he'd NOT actually hunt any business.

Bush: wuh?  cut taxes.  cut taxes.  wuh?

Fiorina, internet sales tax: avoids question.  wants to talk crony capitalism.  Betcha she's avoiding the fact a lot of the things she's talking about happened under Bush.  Wait.  is she talking about trust busting????  hmmm.  no, not really.  She's jumped onto a track and kept going.

Rubio, money problems: his finances were because he struggled from working class.

Kasich, wants to kill Export/Import Bank or incentives: This is welfare for rich people.  wants balanced budget amendment.

Cruz, on women wage equality: no legislation for equality.

Fiorina, on women: lift everyone, blame democrats.

Carson on gays:  Marriage man/woman, but really gay friendly, honestly.

Carson, on manitech:  audience lash out at the questions.


Rubio, wants to be tech industry savior:  reform the H-1B.  bar companies that abuse system.

Trump, in favor of immigration:  for harvard etc. grads from other countries to stay.  For reforming SuperPACs.  Get rid of them and bad decisions because of it.

Cruz, the fed: concerns about fed and audit the fed.  rules based monetary policy.  wants to get rid of fed independence.  he's a GOLD BUG!

Paul, the fed:  audit the fed.  blames fed for income inequality.  blames fed for housing boom and crisis.  no price controls on money.  o.O

Carson, subsidies bad but for ethanol ok:  Admits he was wrong (or says he).

Huckabee, income inequality:  whoa points at JLENS!  lol.  Disagree with him, but I do dislike the JLENS.  No government reg.  he's right about the income inequality.  Not how.

Bush, tax reform, capital gains:  no, really!  middle class is best in my plan!  avoid the question damned fast!

Rubio, tax plan benefits highest: no, you're wrong.  tax foundation wrong.  Rubio tripping.  Greatest gains for percentage for lower class, middle class.  Not absolute.

Paul, tax plan: gets rid of payroll tax.  uhhh...  this doesn't work really.

Cruz: Kill IRS.

CNBC cannot control this debate.  geez.

Kasich, 420: no revenue problem.  drugs bad.  m'kay.  income inequality biggest problem, freeze regulations, wuh.


Interesting that they haven't had trump and carson front and center as much.  trump has also been very muted compared to past debates.

 Trump, H-1B: in favor for people coming legally.  Avoiding the real question.

Rubio, immigration:  change from based on merit, not family.

Trump, guns: comfortable with employees carrying.  Gun free zones are target practice.  Change gun free zone policies.

Huckabee, moral authority: Trump doesn't need him moralizing.  seriously anti clinton.

Christie, moral authority: Christie.  Talking moral authority.  o.O  Is crime REALLY going up?  Christie supports police, period.  hrm.  cops need to be accountable, really, Christie!

Fiorinia, freelance economy retirement: No, feds in retirement plans.  Only rich benefit from government intervention.

Kasich, student debt: wants to downsize university assets, public service to pay off debt, also universities shouldn't get paid for nongraduating students.  uh... most frosh don't become sophomore.

Bush: no federal involvement in university debt.

Bush, are fantasy sports gambling: should be regulated.

Christie: are we really talking about fantasy football!?!  point.

Christie, climate change: don't do what the democrats idea.  hrmph hrmph hrmph.  slams moderator pretty well.  look at my energy plan for climate change.

Paul, medicare: government does a bad job.  can't pay for itself.  points out the demographics. and worker ratios.  Was that really his response?  not because it was stupid, but because there was some thought in it.  o.O


Huckabee, medicare response: 85% of cost of medicare is chronic disease.  Fix the health problem rather than fix medicare.


Trump: Grow economy so fast the medicare reform irrelevant.

Bush: wealthy don't get same benefits, reform medicare.

Kasich: reformed medicaid without cutting benefits.  can't grow your way out of demographics.

Paul:must reform.

Carson, individual plans: o.O people can't afford their medical costs, they can save?!  privatize. 

Christie:  dude. are you participating in the same debate I am listening to?!

Rubio: reform for future, not current people.

Fiorina: we talk the same thing every election.


Paul:  small government.   claims no limit to debt limit.

Christie: sounds like an early 90s infomercial.  I'm awesome.

Cruz: who stands up to anyone?  I'm the serial contrarian, damnit. 

Fiorina: we always talk about the same things.  I am repeating the same things I have said before again.  because I need to say the same thing again.  I am Hillary's worst nightmare.  Hillary Carly debate.

Carson: thank you everybody.

Trump:we are losers.  america is a loser nation. 

Rubio: america is great!  rahrah! 

Bush: DC pols making everything worse.  I'm the savior!  gah.

Huckabee: wants to improve everything, thinking of future generations.

Kasich: sounding like traditional conservative. 

Closing statements.

US Navy Checking to See if ALL Virginia Class Nuclear Submarines can be Built with Virginia Payload Module Starting in 2019

The Program Executive Office for Submarines would like to see the Virginia Payload Module built into all its Block V subs from a warfighting perspective but will have to verify that doing so will not hurt ongoing Virginia sub construction or upcoming Ohio Replacement Program construction..

PEO Subs executive director George Drakeley said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium that the Virginia Payload Module would help the Virginia-class attack subs (SSN-774) replace the SSGN guided missile subs.

“The warfighters have come to love that platform,” Drakeley said of the SSGNs.
“Those ships are getting used and used hard,” with parts wearing out earlier than expected due to heavy use in the fleet.

“The VPM is the follow-on basically for SSGNs, and with the kind of support it has, the program is actually probably in pretty good shape,” he said.
“Right now the plan of record is to build one VPM a year starting in [Fiscal Year 2019] through the shipbuilding plan. There is now kind of support for the possibility of, after we start building Virginia VPM … to make all of the Virginias VPM-Virginias. I think that makes sense from a shipbuilding point of view, and from a capability for the Navy” point of view, he said.

US Navy Starting SSN(X) Attack Sub Program a Decade "Early"

Though the Virginia-class attack submarine program (SSN-774) is still going strong, delivering boats ahead of schedule and below original cost estimates, the Navy needs to start planning the next generation of attack submarines soon, according to the program executive office for submarines.

PEO Subs executive director George Drakeley said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium that an analysis of alternatives for the next-generation sub, or SSN(X), would take place in 2024.

To prepare for that milestone, PEO Subs has created a future capabilities group to begin studying what the operating environment might look like in the 2050 timeframe, what technologies submarines would require to be successful in that environment, and what enablers the research and development community can start working on now to set up the future program for success, he said.

“We’re already putting together a team to look at, what does the future submarine after Virginia need to look like? This is looking forward just as the Ohio Replacement Program is looking forward, but it’s important that we do this now,” Drakeley said.
“We need to identify the technologies that we’re going to need out in the future years in the attack submarine business. … This is going to be a submarine that will have to be better integrated with [unmanned underwater vehicles] and other sensors and other capabilities that we maybe haven’t even thought of yet.”

In 2013 the Navy expanded the Virginia class from a 30-boat program to 48, which now puts the last Virginia-class sub at delivering in 2034, he said. The SSN(X) analysis of alternatives will take place in 2024, the authorization for the lead ship in the new class will happen in 2034, and the new class will reach initial operational capability in 2044, according to current PEO Subs plans.

Starting the SSN(X) discussion nearly a decade ahead of the AoA will help ensure that mature technologies and design tools are ready when the program starts, which reduces risk and cost; will help the Navy understand the impact of external factors and other programs on the SSN(X) design and mission; and build affordability into the program, Drakeley said during his presentation.

There are two possibilities here.  1.  The Navy is doing something really stupid.  They are going to waste money starting the program long, long before it will go to production.  A DECADE! of budget line item that's not producing anything and another TWO decades before IOC for the first SSN(X).

The other possibility is the navy thinks they will get the greenlight to start the AOA and program much earlier, probably in the next administration, and have their ducks in a row so they can.  In that light, this looks like a good idea. 

In the light of starting a program *30* years before IOC of the first sub is dumber than dumb.  

A retired admiral is criticizing the navy and stating the navy needs to accelerate submarine innovation.

JLENS Down in Pennsylvannia

Multiple reports state the loose JLENS blimp, after traveling almost 200 miles, has landed and military and police are descending on the area to secure it.

Should Australia Acquire Nuclear Weapons?

Over the past century, Australia has been America’s most dependable military ally. In every major U.S. conflict, including World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, Australians have fought alongside.

Yet as competition between China and the United States heats up in the Western Pacific, Australia is cautious not to provoke its greatest trading partner. When it comes to a potential U.S.-China conflict, Australia is doing all it can to keep its options open – and with good reason.

Australia is highly vulnerable to long-range missile attack, including those carrying nuclear payloads. Despite Australia being a continental power, almost all its population is concentrated in a half-dozen major cities — easy targets for small numbers of warheads.

In a high-intensity conflict between the United States and China, it is conceivable that China may target Australia with long-range nuclear missiles as a step up the escalation ladder, demonstrating to the United States its capacity, and willingness, to conduct nuclear strikes over intercontinental ranges.

In this eventuality, extended nuclear deterrence would hardly be credible. Retaliating on Australia’s behalf would demonstrably mean accepting large-scale nuclear attack by China on the continental United States.

For this reason, many Australians believe entering into conflict with the world’s most populous nuclear power, for any reason and under any circumstance, is unthinkable – despite very strong support for the Australia-U.S. alliance overall. The most effective means for Australia to insulate itself from long-range nuclear attack is to develop or acquire its own reliable long-range nuclear deterrent.

Global Dust Clouds Present During the Permian

Coal derived rates of atmospheric dust deposition during the Permian


Marshall et al


Despite widespread evidence for atmospheric dust deposition prior to the Quaternary, quantitative rate data remains sparse. As dust influences both climate and biological productivity, the absence of quantitative dust data limits the comprehensiveness of models of pre-Quaternary climate and biogeochemical cycles. Here, we propose that inorganic matter contained in coal primarily records atmospheric dust deposition. To test this, we use the average concentration of inorganic matter in Permian coal to map global patterns and deposition rates of atmospheric dust over Pangea. The dust accumulation rate is calculated assuming Permian peat carbon accumulation rates in temperate climates were similar to Holocene rates and accounting for the loss of carbon during coalification. Coal-derived rates vary from 0.02 to 25 g m- 2 yr- 1, values that fall within the present-day global range. A well constrained East-West pattern of dust deposition corresponding to expected palaeoclimate gradients extends across Gondwana with maximum dust deposition rates occurring close to arid regions. A similar pattern is partially defined over the northern hemisphere. Patterns are consistent with the presence of two large global dust plumes centred on the tropics. The spatial patterns of dust deposition also were compared to dust cycle simulations for the Permian made with the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3). Key differences between the simulations and the coal data are the lack of evidence for an Antarctic dust source, higher than expected dust deposition over N and S China and greater dust deposition rates over Western Gondwana. This new coal-based dust accumulation rate data expands the pre-Neogene quantitative record of atmospheric dust and can help to inform and validate models of global circulation and biogeochemical cycles over the past 350 Myr.

US Army's Cruise Missile Tracking JLENS Blimp has Broken Loose, Being Chased by two F-16s

One of two tethered US Army aerostats that can be seen floating above Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, has broken free from its tether and is moving in a northeast trajectory.

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) consists of both a fire control system aerostat and a surveillance aerostat and is undergoing operational exercises at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The surveillance aerostat detached from its mooring station at 12:20 p.m. EST today, NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek told Defense News.

The aerostat was last seen traveling over Pennsylvania and is being trailed by two F-16 fighter jets from Atlantic City, New Jersey, Kucharek said.

Nacholapithecus kerioi: a Miocene Neogene Hominoid From Kenya That Moved Like Orangutans in the Trees

Morphology of the thoracolumbar spine of the middle Miocene hominoid Nacholapithecus kerioi from northern Kenya


Kikuchi et al


A new caudal thoracic and a new lumbar vertebra of Nacholapithecus kerioi, a middle Miocene hominoid from northern Kenya, are reported. The caudal thoracic vertebral body of N. kerioi has a rounded median ventral keel and its lateral sides are moderately concave. The lumbar vertebral body has an obvious median ventral keel. Based on a comparison of vertebral body cranial articular surface size between the caudal thoracic vertebrae in the present study and one discussed in a previous study (KNM-BG 35250BO, a diaphragmatic vertebra), N. kerioi has at least two post-diaphragmatic vertebrae (rib-bearing lumbar-type thoracic vertebrae), unlike extant hominoids. It also has thick, rounded, and moderately long metapophyses on the lumbar vertebra that project dorsolaterally. The spinous process bases of its caudal thoracic and lumbar vertebrae originate caudally between the postzygapophyses, as described previously in the KNM-BG 35250 holotype specimen. In other words, the postzygapophyses of N. kerioi do not project below the caudal border of the spinous processes, similar to those of extant great apes, and unlike small apes and monkeys, which have more caudally projecting postzygapophyses. Nacholapithecus kerioi has a craniocaudally expanded spinous process in relation to vertebral body length, also similar to extant great apes. Both these spinous process features of N. kerioi differ from those of Proconsul nyanzae. The caudal thoracic vertebra of N. kerioi has a caudally-directed spinous process, whose tip is tear-drop shaped. These features resemble those of extant apes. The morphology of the spinous process tips presumably helps vertebral stability by closely stacking adjacent spinous process tips as seen in extant hominoids. The morphology of the spinous process and postzygapophyses limits the intervertebral space and contributes to the stability of the functional lumbar region as seen in extant great apes, suggesting that antipronograde activity was included in the positional behavior of N. kerioi.

Russia's Most Syrian Adventure #21

Over the last two days, Russia has conducted 118 airstrikes in Syria.  This is half the rate of two days ago.  However, I would be cautious about declaring Russia's aircraft are all breaking down.  They may be having trouble, but we'll see if the rate stabilizes, fall further or if Russia ships in more aircraft.

A Russian armored column, heavy in artillery, left Latakia.  This would hint the Russians are going to try to provide artillery support now in addition to air strikes and some fighters from Ukraine plus special forces.  Putin must love him some tarbaby quagmire pie.

The Iranians are apparently suffering heavy grounds losses if reports are to be believed.  I wonder if the original deal was Russia wuld provide air support and the Iranians would provide ground combat troops.

Complicating that is that the American generals are talking about placing American ground troops in Iraqi units to fight IS.  Iran's supply lines might get rather complicated if there are significant American troops in Iraq.


Are Iron Isotopes From Archean Deposits Biosignatures?

Does a Heavy Fe-Isotope Composition of Akilia Quartz-Amphibole-Pyroxene Rocks Necessitate a BIF Origin?


Whitehouse et al


The age and origin of the quartz-amphibole-pyroxene (qap) gneiss from the island of Akilia, southern West Greenland, have been the subject of intense debate since the light C-isotope composition of graphite inclusions in apatite was interpreted to indicate the presence of Earth's earliest biological activity. Although this claim for biogenic relicts has been vigorously challenged, the possibility that the rocks might represent some of Earth's earliest water-lain sediments and, hence, a suitable repository for life remains an open question. While some workers have suggested that the entire sequence represents an originally mafic-ultramafic igneous precursor subsequently modified by metasomatism, quartz injection, high-grade metamorphism, and extreme ductile deformation, others maintain that at least a small part of the sequence retains geochemical characteristics indicative of a chemical sedimentary origin. Fractionated Fe isotopes with δ56Fe values similar to those observed in Isua BIF have been reported from high-SiO2 units of qap and used to support a chemical sedimentary protolith for the qap unit. Here, we present new Fe isotope data from all lithologic variants in the qap gneiss on Akilia, including layers of undisputed ultramafic igneous origin. Since the latter require introduction of fractionated Fe into at least part of the qap unit, we argue that Fe isotopes must therefore be treated with considerable caution when used to infer BIF for part or all of the qap protolith.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stealth Saga #12: Northrop Does a Victory Lap

India has built an RCS range for its future aviation development.

The Long Range Strike Bomber contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman.  Very little information was shared with the public about the aircraft.  It is reported to be $511M per plane in 2010 dollars and $564M in 2016 dollars.  There are lots of rumors as to what happened.  First is that NG took a very conservative approach to the project to make sure they would not go over on the budget.  Lockheed/Boeing (BoLock) supposedly went heavy on the new tech.  They supposedly kept within the budget requirements, but it might have alarmed the air force for the potential for cost overruns.  The BoLock design was said to be much faster, but the Northrop bird was far stealthier.  Rumors are also the renderings of the NG bird are fairly accurate, though some are saying it looks more like a flying dorito like the A-12 was than the cranked kite.  Many are also attributing NG's work on the still classified RQ-180.  We are expecting a protest from BoLock.  Northrop has launched a fluffy website about the bomber.

Minor update:  Boeing will 'vigorously debate' whether or not to protest the award and will have a decision within two weeks.

Persian Gulf may Experience Temperatures too High for Human Life on Regular Basis due to Climate Change

Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models.

The research reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these deadly temperature extremes.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, was carried out by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal PhD '01 at Loyola Marymount University. They conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it "a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future."

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold "has, as far as we know ... never been reported for any location on Earth."

That tipping point involves a measurement called the "wet-bulb temperature" that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling. That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to recently published research. (The equivalent number in the National Weather Service's more commonly used "heat index" would be about 165 F.)

This limit was almost reached this summer, at the end of an extreme, weeklong heat wave in the region: On July 31, the wet-bulb temperature in Bandahr Mashrahr, Iran, hit 34.6 C -- just a fraction below the threshold, for an hour or less.

But the severe danger to human health and life occurs when such temperatures are sustained for several hours, Eltahir says -- which the models show would occur several times in a 30-year period toward the end of the century under the business-as-usual scenario used as a benchmark by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Persian Gulf region is especially vulnerable, the researchers say, because of a combination of low elevations, clear sky, water body that increases heat absorption, and the shallowness of the Persian Gulf itself, which produces high water temperatures that lead to strong evaporation and very high humidity.